HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Government Can't Stay Quiet Forever
Pubdate: Sat, 10 Jan 2004
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Times Colonist
Author: Les Leyne


MLAs Were Warned That Organized Crime Could Target Public Employees

Dec. 28 wasn't the first time an organized crime squad swooped down on the 
legislature. They showed up three months earlier as well, on a much more 
mundane mission that looks more interesting in light of subsequent 

The Organized Crime Agency of B.C. gave an extensive outline of the state 
of organized crime in the province to Liberal MLAs who are on a committee 
devoted to Crown corporations on Oct. 8, 2003. (The OCA is technically a 
Crown corporation.)

The MLAs a few weeks later delivered some "observations" based on the 
report, which was made by the OCA's senior officer, David Douglas. Nothing 
really earth-shaking in their views: This was largely a bureaucratic 
exercise in determining accountability for performance measurement and 
budgeting standards.

But it's ironic to read that: "Some members stated the Agency should 
develop quantifiable targets and performance measurements for distribution 
to the public."

You want a quantifiable target? How does the Minister of Finance's suite of 
offices grab you?

And in light of all the mystery around the police raid on the legislature, 
let me be the first to join the committee in demanding more "public 
distribution" of performance measurements.

The MLAs also had some thoughts about developing more public awareness of 
the Organized Crime Agency's mandate.

"Members asked if OCABC was involved in soliciting community involvement 
and informing the public on issues related to organized crime."

The subsequent televised raid on the legislature offices of ministerial 
assistants David Basi and Bob Virk certainly hit the public awareness nail 
on the head.

Agency head Douglas told the MLAs in October that his outfit is doing "a 
pretty exceptional job" in apprehending people who "outgun us, outman us, 
and out resource us." And he emphasized that their general strategy -- 
derived from experience elsewhere -- is to focus on key people rather than 
the entire criminal organization.

But the thrust of his remarks was how huge organized crime is in B.C. and 
elsewhere. "Money equals power, and that's the power to buy violence, to 
intimidate and to corrupt."

He said criminal groups are very diffused and cellular in structure. 
"They're organized like terrorist cells. They're hard to infiltrate. When 
one portion of that cell is infiltrated, it doesn't necessarily mean you're 
going to be able to apprehend or interdict the other part of the cell ....

"They're run like corporations, because they see the benefits of 
co-operation. They share their expertise. They share their contacts. We're 
now faced with attacking organized crime groups that are made up of 
Vietnamese, Russian, Indo-Canadian, Chinese, Eastern European, all kinds of 
different languages ....

"Our main business is wiretap investigation, so we have to find the people 
who can do translation ... just that one little area there creates huge 
problems for us."

Douglas, a former RCMP chief superintendent who has been running the OCABC 
for about four years, also discussed "entrepreneurial multicommodity 
criminal activity," where groups will become involved in a myriad of 
different things.

He said one investigation started as a probe of B.C. bud being smuggled to 
the U.S. in return for cocaine. It went international on the second day and 
encompassed "huge" money-laundering, weapons trafficking and New York 
murder conspiracies, all in just two weeks.

He also discussed "corruption of police and government staff."

"When I put 'government staff' I'm talking of people that are in positions 
of supplying information -- something as simple as targeting somebody who 
works in the Motor Vehicle Branch who can supply up-to-date information on 
addresses and vehicles, that sort of thing. That's the sort of people they 
go after -- information base-type people."

The Maple Ridge MLA who chairs the committee, Ken Stewart, on Friday 
shrugged off any irony associated with getting an organized crime briefing 
just three months before an organized crime probe lands at the legislature.

With no specific knowledge of the case, he said: "Politics is about 
influence and control. Most people in politics use that to benefit the 
people they represent."

But he said there are always other people who will "try to get to those 
people with influence."

Like most other Liberals, he's hoping this winds up as a case "where two 
people working in government just came across the radar screen of an 

But as the second week of this story closes, with tales of drugs, 
money-laundering, organized crime and now breach of trust suspicions 
related to the sale of B.C. Rail, you have to wonder how long the Liberals 
can quietly sit and hope.

They have fired Basi and held three news conferences to counsel patience. 
But the "Dave's Not Here" defence, a la Cheech and Chong, isn't going to 
hold forever.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart