Drug Trail Led RCMP To Liberal Staffers

Drug Trail Led RCMP To Liberal Staffers
Posted by CN Staff on December 29, 2003 at 22:50:59 PT
By Robert Matas and Brent Jang
Source: Globe and Mail 
Vancouver and Victoria  The RCMP raided two ministerial offices in the B.C. Legislature as a result of information gathered during a 20-month investigation into massive drug deals involving an exchange of B.C. marijuana for U.S. cocaine, police say.The Mounties and Victoria police arrested nine people earlier this month who were alleged to be part of an organized-crime ring dealing in drugs, RCMP Sergeant John Ward said yesterday.
Three were from Toronto and the rest were from Vancouver and Victoria.In the course of their investigation, police discovered information of possible criminal activity touching on aides of top ministers in the British Columbia cabinet, Sgt. Ward said.The new information, combined with information directly linked to the investigation of the organized-crime and drug ring, was enough to justify a search of the legislative offices, he said.The two ministerial aides at the centre of the controversy are David Basi, a ministerial assistant and friend of Finance Minister Gary Collins, and Robert Virk, a ministerial assistant to Transportation Minister Judith Reid. As assistants, their offices are part of the ministerial suite of offices in the legislature.Mr. Basi's appointment was rescinded shortly after the raid. Mr. Virk was suspended with pay.Mr. Basi has worked for the provincial government for several years, but is better known in political circles for his work as an organizer in B.C. for Paul Martin during the leadership campaign.Mr. Virk, a friend of Mr. Basi, worked for the B.C. Liberal Party before it formed the government in 2001 and then took an appointment as a ministerial assistant.Mr. Basi, in a statement distributed to Victoria media yesterday, said he has done nothing wrong.He said he has co-operated fully with police.In Victoria, Mr. Collins said that he supported the firing of his ministerial assistant.Sgt. Ward repeatedly said he could not comment on the raids at the legislature, which are part of a continuing investigation. Police raids were also carried out at Mr. Basi's home, an accounting firm in Victoria and a government lobbying firm called Pilot House Public Affairs Group Inc. Police also carried out searches in Vancouver and Toronto in connection with their investigation of the drug ring.The ministers were not the target of the investigation, Sgt. Ward said.B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, who is on vacation outside the country, told reporters in a phone call that he did not plan to return home early to deal with the crisis. A special prosecutor has been available to assist police investigators since Dec. 11, the Attorney-General's Ministry said yesterday.The special prosecutor, Vancouver lawyer William Berardino, will decide whether charges will be laid and will conduct the prosecution if the charges go to court, ministry spokesman Geoff Gaul said.Sgt. Ward said the police work revealed the growing problems for society associated with the illegal drug trade and organized crime.The illegal drug trade in B.C., which he estimated at $6-billion, is at "critical mass," Sgt. Ward said.Murders, beatings, extortion and gang warfare are occurring at a level never seen before in B.C., he said."Organized crime has stretched into every corner of B.C. and onto most city streets."Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill said a B.C. Supreme Court judge approved the search warrants for the legislature and the Speaker of the House gave the go-ahead Saturday night. About 20 Victoria police officers helped with Sunday's raid.The boxes containing seized documents have been sealed, and any documents deemed privileged B.C. cabinet papers will be respected, Chief Battershill said.Police also assured the business community that the confidentiality of any documents seized from ministry files would be protected.Police began "actively" investigating 10 months ago, Chief Battershill said. It will likely take several more months to examine the material seized on Sunday and for the findings to be presented to a special prosecutor, he said.From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)Author:  Robert Matas and Brent JangPublished: Monday, December 29, 2003 Copyright: 2003 The Globe and Mail CompanyContact: letters globeandmail.caWebsite: Articles:Organized Crime Probe Led To B.C. Raid Raids in B.C. Linked To Investigation
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