HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Raid On Legislature Was About Illegal Drugs
Pubdate: Wed, 31 Dec 2003
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Lori Culbert, with a file by Jim Beatty


At Least One Search Warrant Was Specifically Part Of A Drug Investigation

Police were looking specifically for information about illegal drugs when 
they raided the offices of the aides to two high-profile cabinet ministers 
at the B.C. legislature, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

Police had said earlier the raids last weekend were prompted by a spinoff 
investigation of commercial crime based on information they uncovered 
during a 20-month drug- and organized-crime probe.

They said it was the spinoff probe that resulted in a series of search 
warrants being served Sunday, including several involving premises occupied 
by key insiders with the federal and provincial Liberal parties.

But at least one of the warrants executed Sunday was specifically part of 
the drug probe.

That would be either the warrant to search the legislature office of 
Finance Minister Gary Collins' ministerial assistant Dave Basi, or the 
warrant to search the office of Transportation Minister Judith Reid's 
ministerial assistant Bob Virk.

Basi was fired from his job Monday, and Virk was suspended with pay.

Police have released few details about the two investigations, and will not 
explain how the worlds of politics, drugs and organized crime allegedly 

RCMP spokesman Sergeant John Ward would not comment Tuesday on The Sun's 
information about one of the two legislature searches being linked directly 
to drugs.

He said the fact that there is a ban on publication of the material in the 
warrants prohibited him from saying anything.

However, a statement issued Monday by the RCMP acknowledged that the 
evidence uncovered in the legislature case "combined with information 
directly linked to the organized crime/drug investigation resulted in 
police securing warrants to search offices of non-elected staff members at 
the B.C. legislature" and other locations.

A special prosecutor, William Berardino, has been assigned to the 
legislature case.

Robert Prior, director of federal prosecutions for B.C., is handling the 
drug case, which the RCMP says was launched in the spring of 2002 into the 
involvement of organized crime in the sale of B.C.-grown marijuana in the 
U.S. in exchange for cocaine, which was then sold in Canada.

Both Berardino and Prior will have standing in court Friday when The Sun 
and other media outlets argue the bans on publication of the search 
warrants should be overturned.

No charges have been laid in either case.

Government officials were surprised when informed by The Sun about the drug 
warrant, but declined to comment.

On Monday, Premier Gordon Campbell maintained no government decisions were 
or compromised in any way by actions of Basi or Virk. No elected officials 
have been implicated in the scandal.

The seven warrants issued Sunday include the two at the legislature, the 
home offices of two people in the Lower Mainland, the offices of a private 
company doing business in Victoria and Vancouver, and Basi's home.

Basi, a prominent organizer for the provincial and federal Liberal parties 
and a well-known supporter of Prime Minister Paul Martin, issued a 
statement Monday saying he had done nothing wrong.

Police also searched the Victoria and Vancouver offices of Pilothouse 
Public Affairs Group. One of the lobbying firm's two directors is Erik 
Bornman, communications director for the B.C. chapter of the federal 
Liberals and a longtime party activist.

Police also visited the Port Moody home office of Mark Marissen, the 
husband of Deputy Premier Christy Clark. Marissen is an avid Martin 
supporter, and is the prime minister's most powerful non-elected ally in B.C.

Bornman said he needed more information before commenting. Marissen said he 
was "an innocent recipient" of documents police considered evidence, and 
cooperated with authorities by handing them over.

Twenty months after the start of the joint RCMP-Victoria police 
drug/organized crime investigation, nine people were recently arrested in 
Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria but were released without charges. Ward 
denied that was a sign the case was weak, or lacked any clear suspects.

"I anticipate charges will be laid. When is another question," he said. 
"When you deal with organized crime and the way it is spread out, our 
investigations are lengthy, complex and we need to take the time that's 
required to conduct them."

Ward would not comment directly on Prior being appointed to the drug case. 
But he said that, generally speaking, a prosecutor could be appointed to a 
file before charges are laid "if we were ready to lay charges, or our 
investigation has got to the point where we want to have Crown look at our 
case to see if anything needs shoring up."

Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill has confirmed the drug investigation 
is connected to the suspension with pay on Dec. 15 of Victoria police 
Constable Ravinder Dosanjh.

Sources have told The Sun the drug probe is targeting a suspected 
influential Victoria trafficker related to Dosanjh. The alleged trafficker 
is also a relative of a Vancouver resident who has worked on provincial and 
federal Liberal campaigns.

Prior did not return calls Tuesday.

In his administrative role as head of criminal prosecutions in B.C. for the 
department of justice, Prior has been quoted often in The Sun in recent 
years commenting on high profile federal cases. That includes the 2001 
trafficking-related conviction of three Hells Angels, which police at the 
time called the first significant, successful prosecution of members of the 
gang in recent B.C. history; the 2000 arrest of Lai Changxing, the man 
alleged to be the central figure in China's biggest corruption scandal; and 
nine Koreans charged with five counts of people-smuggling after being 
arrested while trying to flee Canadian waters Aug. 11, 1999.
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