Police Investigation Rattles B.C.'s Liberal Party

  Police Investigation Rattles B.C.'s Liberal Party

Posted by CN Staff on January 12, 2004 at 08:12:52 PT
By Mark Hume 
Source: Globe and Mail  

Vancouver -- "It's obviously a money trail," the man with a rich Indo-Canadian accent said, talking on his cellphone as he weaved through heavy traffic."There are a few individuals involved . . . these guys all came from the Island. They worked actively on Paul Martin's campaign and probably brought in a whole lot of money. . . . That's the real nitty-gritty of the story."
With that, the caller, a Liberal organizer who didn't want to be identified, began reeling off a list of names and family connections that illustrated the tangled nature of a police investigation that has shaken the Liberal Party in British Columbia and raised questions about whether the government of B.C. is, in fact, involved.If it is, as police suspect, a key link appears to be David Basi, a powerful ministerial aide who was fired after his legislative offices were searched two weeks ago. Mr. Basi had access to confidential government files -- including multimillion-dollar plans to privatize the Coquihalla Highway and to sell parts of B.C. Rail. Unverified reports in the B.C. media allege the legislative end of the investigation involves his handling of the BC Rail file.Mr. Basi, a top aide to Finance Minister Gary Collins, was also a key backroom organizer for the federal and provincial Liberals, leading a team of political operatives based on Vancouver Island known as the Basi Boys, who specialized in taking over ridings by signing up masses of new party members and busing in supporters. Some people say it was typical, hardscrabble B.C. politics. Others say it veered over the line.Following the trail of the Basi Boys leads into a murky political world where rumours swirl, fed in part by a desire for political revenge against an elite group of Liberals who cut a swath through the province as they captured ridings for Mr. Martin's leadership bid and built Premier Gordon Campbell's power base.Their influence was largely based on being able to bring in the Indo-Canadian vote. And they often played rough in doing it."It broke my heart," a former Liberal scrutineer said of watching how Mr. Basi and his colleagues took over one Vancouver Island riding in 1997. Allan Warnke, a former Liberal MLA, said typically they would sweep in with an overwhelming number of new members. He said the party turned a blind eye to this kind of political swarming, but he thought it was wrong.He said Basi's Boys mostly worked in ridings around Victoria, but they were active provincially and helped the party's soaring membership numbers at the federal level during the drive to build support for Mr. Martin's leadership bid. The size of the federal party in B.C. grew from 4,000 members in February, 2002, to more than 37,000 last fall. About 40 per cent are Indo-Canadian."Concentrate on the memberships," Mr. Warnke said, sounding like the unnamed Liberal organizer who felt the key to the case was the money trail."There is cash around that had to cover those memberships. In the old days the purpose of memberships was to raise funds, but in this case you had a lot of loose cash kicking around. You create a membership and then you have the money covering the membership. Now, where did the money come from?"Where did all this spare change come from?" he asked.Mr. Basi and his brother-in-law, Bob Virk, assistant to Transportation Minister Judith Reid, have not been available for interviews since the raids. Mr. Virk's office was also raided.Throughout the 1990s, Mr. Basi built a solid reputation in the party as a bright, young Liberal who could get things done. Now he is seen as a major political liability that has pulled the Liberals into a corrosive scandal.The case began quietly on Dec. 15, when Constable Ravinder Dosanjh of the Victoria Police Department was called into the chief's office and suspended without pay.Five days later, nine people were arrested in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto as a 20-month investigation into drugs and organized crime drew its first blood.In B.C., organized crime plays big, exporting potent marijuana, known as B.C. Bud, by the tonne and bringing back shipments of cocaine, guns and money.The Hells Angels, an Asian gang called the Big Circle Boys and Indo-Canadian networks are all known to be involved in drug smuggling.Police estimate 2,000 to 3,000 grow-ops are producing B.C. Bud in Greater Vancouver. In Surrey, in November alone, police raided 38 grow-ops, seizing 1,400 kilograms of dried marijuana buds, which could have been traded in the United States for 300 kilograms of cocaine. In Langley, a year ago, trucks from two transportation firms were impounded after police found bundles of 300 to 400 kilograms of marijuana mixed in with their general loads bound for the United States.Those cases, none of which have been linked to the legislative raids, illustrate how big the drug business is. The Organized Crime Agency of B.C. says organized crime has so much cash it is weighed, not counted, and laundering money is a major criminal preoccupation.The arrest last month of the nine suspects didn't draw any attention. They were released within 24 hours and none were charged. It might have ended there, as just another drug case -- but then police raided the legislative offices of Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk. Boxes of government documents, which police are still waiting for legal clearance to read because of cabinet privilege, were carted away. Police have said they are looking for information related to money laundering.Mr. Basi, who has been described as "the most powerful political aide in Victoria," was promptly fired after the Premier consulted with his top assistant, Martyn Brown.A source told The Globe and Mail that when it came to government secrets, Mr. Basi "had access to everything. Absolutely everything."Mr. Campbell has not said what he knows, if anything, about Mr. Basi's activities. But after returning from holidays in Hawaii, he was adamant that the government had done the right thing in firing him.Mr. Virk had a less sensitive job. He is suspended with pay while the police investigation continues.On the day that the legislature was raided, police also searched the offices of Erik Bornman and Brian Kieran, directors of Pilothouse Public Affairs Group. Mr. Bornman is communications director for the federal Liberals in B.C. and a lobbyist who counts among his clients OmniTRAX Inc., a U.S. company that made a losing bid for BC Rail.The offices of Bruce Clark, Mr. Martin's chief fundraiser on the West Coast, were also searched. He is the brother of Deputy Premier Christy Clark. And police visited Mark Marissen, the campaign chairman in B.C. for Mr. Martin's leadership bid and husband of Ms. Clark, saying he might be the "innocent recipient" of important documents.Shocked, and concerned, he searched his computer files and turned over material he thought might be of help."I can only say . . . the documents did not pertain to the Liberal Party of Canada's or the Paul Martin campaign's fundraising or organizational activities," Mr. Marissen said.Other Liberals have strived to distance the party from the investigation. "At the end of the day I'm not overly worried that any of us are going to be terribly caught up in this, but it's not fun going through it," said Bill Cunningham, president of the Liberal Party of Canada in B.C."First of all, the law says as a political organization we can't accept any money unless it's disclosed. So money coming in, by law, has to be clean," said Mr. Cunningham, adding that the party can account for every cent it has received.Since the raids, he's spent most of his time denying false rumours and media reports, such as one that had Mr. Basi paying for a charter flight for about 300 young Liberals to attend the party's leadership convention won by Mr. Martin. Mr. Cunningham said, three businessmen sponsored the flight."The most confounding thing is that . . . if there is a linkage, why isn't the RCMP talking to us? The party has never been approached. If this really is about any money that's purported to have come into the federal party, well it all goes through us, it all passes through our hands and we haven't had so much as a phone call or a knock on the door."Despite Mr. Cunningham's confidence that the party will eventually be exonerated, the raids have shattered the Liberals' hopes of achieving a historic breakthrough in B.C., and the provincial party, which holds a massive majority, is beginning to look suddenly vulnerable. "I think frankly . . . you have to be wondering if the Liberal Party can win even safe seats in British Columbia after this," said Greg Wilson, a former member of the Liberal executive in B.C. Note: Fired political aide with broad access to secret files considered key link.Complete Title: Tangled Police Investigation Rattles B.C.'s Liberal PartySource: Globe and Mail (Canada)Author: Mark HumePublished: Monday, January 12, 2004 - Page A2 Copyright: 2004 The Globe and Mail CompanyContact: letters globeandmail.caWebsite: Articles:Drug Trail Led RCMP To Liberal Staffers Crime Probe Led To B.C. Raid Raids in B.C. Linked To Investigation 

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Comment #16 posted by Virgil on January 18, 2004 at 11:10:29 PT
The scandal is brewing
The idea that Paul Martin could have attained his high office with the profits from prohibition is developing. Marc Emery is on the case and says this is what we get with prohibition-
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Comment #15 posted by freedom fighter on January 13, 2004 at 15:08:02 PT
SGD, my favorite
"Emperor wears No Clothes" by Jack Herer favorite way to grow a tomato plant.Get a 5 gal bucket, fill in organic soil brought from Wally-Mart.Shove the germinated seed about one inch below the soil and give them plenty light and water.Three months of hard work, enjoy your fruit of labor. Yummy, those tasty red tomatoes. Sorry if this is off-topic. Never saw any harm in teaching a man how to grow food. Actually, it is rather sad to feel afraid to even discuss about the art of gardening.It is in human's nature to be curious about all living thing. And to carry a criminal record because of it is just plain stupid.\/ff
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Comment #14 posted by escapegoat on January 12, 2004 at 16:03:53 PT
I agree, but come to a very different conclusion.Combined with the Molson bust, these stories are getting people -- Joe Lunchbucket -- to make the connection between organized crime and prohibition. If this is some kind of US-driven investigation (people are telling me the Solicitor General Rich Coleman and top judge Patrick Dohm are very well connected to the DEA and have pulled some dirty tricks on former premier Glen Clark in the past), it's only a matter of time before it comes out, and bites them on the ass.Have faith, this will end up legalizing cannabis once and FOR ALL.
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Comment #13 posted by BigDawg on January 12, 2004 at 14:05:32 PT

Google the word "overgrow"
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Comment #11 posted by Nuevo Mexican on January 12, 2004 at 13:39:09 PT

You're both right!
Cannabis prohibition is the leg that supports bushes war on terror, and when prohibition falls, it is all over for the 'drug warriors'!All that has to be done is for Dennis the K, to come out in a debate and declare his stance on ending prohibition, and treating Cannabis the same as alcolhol, not that booze deserves equal treatment, but for now, that would be a huge step in opening the publics easily-lead eyes. End Cannabis prohibition, and bush will fall from dis-grace, and Canadians can have their country back, it is now owned by bushco, walters, rove, mccaffrey, DEA, ONDCP etc. If Canadians put up with American bullies, whose fault is it?
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Comment #10 posted by Virgil on January 12, 2004 at 13:38:32 PT

The exercise of power for control
We see people being led at taxpayer expense to a set of false beliefs with advertising demonizing laughing grass. There was a thread of note at DU on San Francisco settling a $1 million dollar lawsuit with FreeRepublic after a Bu$h conference with the mayor. I thought it was relevant because of the machination of power and a new method to funnel money to a right wing agenda. It was up at this weekend at DU and if I did not already put so much stuff up, I would have mentioned it, because I am afraid to say any detail as I am already questioning if it was San Francisco.There is not much need to keep harping on the media in detail. The O'Neil story is a study of the media because of its hugeness. Following that story, you see an attack on O'Neil being made by the government on the issue of using classified information- is also an atack being made on Kucinich for ethics violations of House rules.
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Comment #9 posted by goneposthole on January 12, 2004 at 13:35:55 PT

big deal
As if the Republicans in the US government haven't ever done anything corrupt. Har har. The JFK assassination, Watergate, the war in Iraq. A never ending list of questionable dealings and missing money.There are a couple of large buildings missing in New York City which have scandal written all over them. Seems as though the evidence has all been carried away to the dumpgrounds and no one bothered to investigate how they fell to the ground.Fourteen hundred kilograms of cannabis traded for three hundred kilos of cocaine is small potatoes.When will the government in the US ever concentrate on crime and corruption? A: never, they're knee deep in it. 
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on January 12, 2004 at 13:00:45 PT

I Find It Very Odd
I believe until this is all said and done these busts will bring down something big. I don't know why I feel that way but I do. I feel it in my bones. It's so American what is happening isn't it?
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Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on January 12, 2004 at 12:55:14 PT:

I still find this disquieting
The timing is just too pat:The Liberals up there were considering decrim. Granted, it's not much of a decrim that leaves growers vulnerable to even worse legal attack than before, but it's a start. And, granted, it's not the National party level that is involved in this regional mess, but for obvious reason, BC is a hotbed.Now, this latest legal s**tstorm is bound to give the Liberals a political black eye...and possibly give them the most threadbare excuse to back away from any decrim efforts, even to the point of performing a volteface and start mouthing off like prohibs, to give the impression they are going to do a bit of US-styled 'tough on crime!' grandstanding.Instead of forging ahead and making decrim a major issue - and thus removing the profit incentive for the apparent scandal to begin with - don't be surprised if it quietly gets relegated to the back burner...and the heat gets turned off.Maybe I'm paranoid, but this is just too, too slick as to the timing. One other player is bound to be involved, if only by proxie: Uncle. The Grits have tweaked Uncle's nose with their determination to move ahead on the decrim issue. Given what's happened down here with the kind of hardball the Bushites play (i.e. the Plame affair, WMDs, etc) do you think they'd pull any punches in instigating something like this? 
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on January 12, 2004 at 10:56:39 PT

It's not legal yet. You really should do a google search or visit a forum that talks about growing. Thanks!
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Comment #5 posted by SystemGoneDown on January 12, 2004 at 10:53:01 PT

Dr Ethan...
gracias. Thanks...Does anyone know the basics for growing your own pot?
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Comment #4 posted by Ethan Russo MD on January 12, 2004 at 10:38:36 PT

On Prohibition
So many!:Reefer Madness. Eric Schlosser.Reefer Madness. SlomanMarijuana, the New Prohibition. KaplanWaiting to Inhale. BockWhy Marijuana Should be Legal. Rosenthal/KubbyThe Marijuana Conviction. Bonnie/WhitebreadThe American Disease. MustoThat should keep you occupied!
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Comment #3 posted by SystemGoneDown on January 12, 2004 at 10:32:44 PT

Can anyone recommend any good readings about cannabis prohibition? 
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on January 12, 2004 at 08:45:45 PT

Here's An Article I Archived from Canada
They sure seem to be cracking down on large operations. I can't imagine anything this big in the US.OPP High on Big Brewery Bust:
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Comment #1 posted by BGreen on January 12, 2004 at 08:27:56 PT

Martin Is A Slimeball
No wonder the Canadian gov't is so adamant about keeping the black market alive and prospering.The Reverend Bud Green
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