Warrants raise tough questions for Liberals

"I can say in general that the spread of organized crime just in the past two years has been like a cancer on the social and economic well-being of all British Columbians."

-- RCMP spokesperson Sgt. John Ward, after search warrants were executed at the B.C. legislature, December 2003

There is one overwhelming question looming after the release of information related to search warrants executed at the B.C. legislature last December: how far has the cancer of organized crime spread in our political system?

The allegations made by police in search-warrant "information to obtain" statements filed in B.C. Supreme Court are powerful and, if proven true, devastating to both the Gordon Campbell Liberals and the Paul Martin government.

There are dozens of other unanswered questions raised by the search-warrant applications, including the role of many prominent political and business figures named in the documents. About 80 percent of the search-warrant information has been excised with the agreement of B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm as the investigation continues.

While media reports have said that the named individuals are not under investigation, the actual wording of the released information states that "the following people are not at the present time the subjects of this investigation," leaving open the possibility of future scrutiny.

The search-warrant information concerns alleged influence-peddling. This is a separate investigation from a major drug probe that triggered the raid on the legislature offices in the first place.

Shortly before the Straight went to press, the RCMP announced that drug charges had been laid against eight men, including David Basi, the fired ministerial aide to B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins. Basi, also a key Paul Martin leadership-campaign organizer for B.C., faces one count of possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, and another count of production of a controlled substance. In addition, Basi is being investigated for alleged influence-peddling in connection with the government's $1-billion privatization of BC Rail, specifically for breach of trust and fraud.

Bob Virk, the still-suspended ministerial aide to former B.C. transportation minister Judith Reid, is also under investigation for alleged influence-peddling in the BC Rail situation.

And although Collins and B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman have done everything they can to downplay the significance of the investigation, the political connections in this case are widespread in both the B.C. and federal Liberal parties. The list of other individuals whose names appear as "identified" but not under investigation in the search-warrant information to obtain include:


Most prominent of the other individuals cited is Bruce Clark, brother of deputy premier Christy Clark and brother-in-law of Mark Marissen, Prime Minister Paul Martin's top Liberal organizer in B.C.

Until the December 2003 raids, Bruce Clark was Paul Martin's top fundraiser in B.C. and served as an executive member of the federal Liberal party's B.C. wing.

Clark is alleged to have received government documents from Basi pertaining to another privatization, the proposed sale of BC Rail's Roberts Bank spur line for up to $100 million. B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon was forced to cancel that sale in March after being informed by RCMP that the process had been compromised by the leak of confidential information to a bidder. Clark's home was searched by police last year, as was Basi's.


Bornman is a former executive of the federal Liberals in B.C. and communications director for Paul Martin's leadership campaign in B.C., as well as a provincial lobbyist. OmniTRAX, the U.S. rail company that bid on both the BC Rail and Roberts Bank privatizations, was a client of Pilothouse Public Affairs Group, the firm owned by Bornman and former Province newspaper columnist Brian Kieran. Police also searched Pilothouse's Victoria offices.

Bornman is alleged to have offered Basi and Virk a benefit--help in obtaining $100,000-plus jobs with the federal Liberal government--in exchange for getting confidential information about the BC Rail deals. Bornman is also alleged to have known that Basi and Virk had given him résumés with "flaws and fabrications" regarding their academic records but forwarded them to Marissen, who sent them on to the prime minister's office unaware they were inaccurate.

Although Basi and Virk may face charges of breach of trust and fraud for allegedly accepting a benefit, Bornman is not listed as under investigation despite allegedly offering the benefit. In fact, Bornman issued a statement several months ago saying police had told him he was not being investigated.

The search-warrant information would appear to raise two possibilities: that if Basi and Virk are charged in the influence-peddling probe, Bornman may yet come under investigation for his role, or that he may have made a deal with police to avoid possible charges.


Shojania is listed in the information to obtain but his name does not appear elsewhere in the document.

Shojania is a Victoria lawyer who specializes in real-estate law. He was found guilty of professional misconduct in July 2004 by the Law Society of B.C., which reprimanded Shojania and fined him $2,000 for breaching an undertaking with a client and for paying his own legal fees out of a client's trust fund.

Shojania is a B.C. Liberal government appointee, serving on the board of directors of Royal Roads University in Sooke.

Elections Canada lists Shojania as a donor to the federal Liberal party, contributing more than $1,700 in the 1990s. Shojania also was registered as a third party in the 2000 federal election when a group called "Victorians for a Strong Canada" spent $2,894.99 on an ad in the Victoria Times-Colonist newspaper the day before the election.

Elections Canada defines such advertising as being intended to "promote or oppose the election of one or more candidates in a given electoral district."


Knott, a lawyer and a well-known supporter of both the B.C. Liberal party and the federal Conservative party, is also listed, but his name appears nowhere else in the search-warrant information.

Knott, who has given the B.C. Liberals more than $4,700 since 1999, found himself being criticized by the NDP and media outlets in 2002 when he set up a $2,000-per-person private fundraising dinner at Vancouver's Four Seasons Hotel for Stan Hagen, then B.C. minister for sustainable resource management. Knott sent a letter to private-sector mining, forestry, energy, and other executives reminding them that Hagen can "provide faster approvals and greater access to Crown land and resources to protect and create jobs in tourism, mining, forestry, farming, ranching, oil and gas production."

The Web site of Clark, Wilson, the law firm where Knott is a senior partner, says Knott's specialties include real-estate law and public-private partnerships.


Ringdal is CEO of the BC Automobile Dealers Association, which last year alone contributed $54,967 to the B.C. Liberals. He was previously president of the B.C. Lions and vice-president of the Vancouver Canucks. There is no reference as to why his name is listed in the search-warrant information.


Topham is executive director of the federal Liberal party in B.C. and was campaign manager for failed federal Liberal candidate Shirley Chan in Vancouver East in this year's election. The former University of Victoria Young Liberal is listed but appears nowhere else in the search-warrant information.


Bajwa is another Paul Martin leadership organizer who has publicly defended David Basi, a friend since high school. Bajwa was membership chair of the federal Vancouver South--Burnaby riding where then--cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal lost control of his executive. Dhaliwal blamed Basi for that hostile takeover and said Gary Collins should be questioned by Gordon Campbell about his political staff's actions.

Collins introduced Bajwa in the B.C. legislature on two occasions, in 1999 and 2001.


The RCMP just announced that Sandhu has been charged with conspiracy to traffic in marijuana. In December, Sandhu was appointed to the federal Liberal party executive in the Esquimalt---Juan de Fuca riding at Basi's request, but he was later removed when it was discovered he was not a party member. Two days later, Sandhu's home was searched by police as part of the drugs and organized-crime investigation.

Sandhu is cousin to and owned property with Ravinder Dosanjh, the Victoria police constable who has been suspended with pay because of what Victoria police Chief Paul Battershill has called Dosanjh's indirect links to the organized-crime investigation that led to the legislature raid. Sandhu is related to Amar Bajwa, according to the Vancouver Sun.

So, although the reasons for the raids at the B.C. legislature have become clearer, much remains a mystery, including the political damage this will do to the B.C. and federal Liberal parties.

But we do know that there are connections between a police investigation into drugs, money-laundering, and organized crime, two privatization deals worth more than $1 billion, and allegations of breach of trust and fraud by top provincial government officials who have extensive connections with the federal Liberal party and the campaign to make Paul Martin leader and prime minister.

It doesn't get much bigger than that.

Bill Tieleman is president of West Star Communications and a regular political commentator on CBC Radio's Early Edition. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net.