Auditor clears politicians on Basi-Virk bills

B.C.'s Auditor General found no political interference in the decision to pay legal costs for political aides found guilty

Attorney General Suzanne Anton

Attorney General Suzanne Anton

VICTORIA – B.C.’s Auditor General has found no political interference in the government’s  2010 decision to forgive $6 million in legal defence costs for former ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bobby Virk.

The legal costs decision was announced two days after Basi and Virk pleaded guilty to one count each of breach of trust and accepting benefits, after seven years of investigation into their role in leaking confidential information on bids for the sale of BC Rail assets.

The guilty pleas, on the eve of testimony by former cabinet ministers, prompted the audit to examine the decision to waive collection of the legal fees. That was contrary to the existing policy that while the government would cover legal defence costs for its employees, that money would be recovered if employees were found guilty.

In a report released Wednesday, acting Auditor General Russ Jones concluded that the plea bargain and fee relief were proposed to the Legal Services Branch of the Attorney General’s ministry by Basi and Virk’s defence lawyers. The final decision was made by the former deputy attorney general and deputy minister of finance, with politicians purposely excluded.

“The decision was an economic decision,” Jones said. “It was to save money.”

The government had spent $6 million to date and would be putting up another $2 million for defence bills if the trial had continued. Combined prosecution and defence costs were costing taxpayers $15,000 for each day of a trial expected to take six months.

The audit noted that Basi and Virk’s combined assets were valued at $400,000.

The B.C. government not only covers legal costs for its employees, but for defendants in large criminal trials who can’t afford their own defence. Fees were paid for convicted serial killer Robert William Pickton and for Jamie Bacon, one of the accused in the current Surrey Six murder case.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton said the government is acting on the auditor’s recommendations to make the process of covering employee legal fees more transparent.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Okanagan College students Michael Ochoa and Tallin Gregoire, both members of the Okanagan Indian Band, raised the Okanagan Nation Alliance flag on July 16, 2019,  outside the Vernon campus. (Karissa Gall photo)
First Nations reconciliation personified at Okanagan College

President Jim Hamilton’s foresight has opened post-secondary education doors for Okanagan College’s Indigenous students

Sunny the cat jumped out of the truck at the Revelstoke Landfill earlier this month and was quickly reunited with his owners. (Submitted)
The cat came back with the help of two Revelstoke landfill workers

Sunny jumped out of the truck at the landfill in November

Revelstoke’s Free Arts Sessions in the Park program is collecting letters for isolated seniors this holiday season. The deadline to submit a letter is Dec. 8. (Submitted photo)
Write a letter to someone in isolation this holiday season

Revelstoke’s Free Arts in the Park program is collecting letters for seniors

Movie crews filmed a holiday parade in Summerland in July. The parade, filmed on Main Street in Summerland, is for the movie, The Christmas Yule Blog. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009. (RCMP photo)
Human remains found off U.S. coast in 2009 identified as Penticton man

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009

Emergency crews respond to crash just before midnight on Trans-Canada Highway east of Salmon Arm. (File photo)
Two pick-up trucks collide head-on on Trans-Canada Highway near Salmon Arm

Police report drivers survive crash late on Nov. 29, taken to hospital

The missing snowmen were found down the road Monday after being removed from their rightful places Sunday, Nov. 29. (Contributed)
Missing snowmen go for an evening stroll in Okanagan

Large Mrs. Snowman cutout apparently went for a walk

A Summerland municipal employee has tested positive for COVID-19. (Summerland Review file photo)
Summerland municipal employee tests positive for COVID-19

Employee now self-isolating and recovering at home

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks to a reporter in Vancouver on November 13, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
No evidence that B.C. ER staff played blood alcohol level game, but Indigenous racism ‘widespread’

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond releases findings of independent investigation

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News staff)
Kelowna break-in suspect arrested over weekend

The incident happened on Nov. 28 at approximately 4:40 a.m.

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Most Read