Basi-Virk legal bills ethical: audit 0
Dave Basi (top-left) with his lawyer Michael Bolton (top-right), Bobby Virk (bottom-left) and his lawyer Kevin McCullough (bottom-right) leaving the B.C. Supreme Court after pleading guilty in the political corruption investigation involving the sale of B.C. Rail on Oct. 18, 2010. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)
"The public was let down." – Dermod Travis, IntegrityBC
B.C.’s auditor general has determined $6.4 million in taxpayers’ money paid for the legal defence of Dave Basi and Bobby Virk, who pleaded guilty to breach of trust charges over the sale of BC Rail, was granted without political interference.
Basi and Virk admitted to breach of trust and receiving benefits by trading confidential government information regarding the sale of BC Rail.
Government employees under charges can have their legal defence paid for under indemnification, meant to protect them if they have legal trouble in the course of their work.
Auditor general Russ Jones said that although he wasn’t able to see all the documents he wanted for the investigation, questions related to the Basi-Virk indemnity were satisfied.
“As far as the administration of the special indemnity we were able to get the information for that,” said Jones.
He found public servants who granted the indemnity acted responsibly and pointed out the trial would have cost an additional $2 million if Basi and Virk had not pleaded guilty after it began.
Jones said granting the indemnity saved the province money by being funded as special indemnities, saying it often costs more for criminal trials when the defendants can’t afford counsel.
In all, the audit report looked at 26 of 100 indemnities granted between 1996 and 2011 for the report, and came out with 10 recommendations for future indemnities, including waiving solicitor-client privilege for legal fees.
Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton praised the “independent confirmation” there was no political interference.
Dermod Travis of government watchdog IntegrityBC was not as enthusiastic about the finding.
"While the auditor general found that there was no political interference in the decision to pay Dave Basi and Bob Virk's legal bills, the government's justification for doing so isn't particularly compelling,” Travis said in an email. “There are times when the administration of justice isn't just about dollars and cents, but the public's interest."