A political corruption case that dramatically burst into the headlines in December 2003, when police raided the Victoria legislature offices of two ministerial aides, could go to trial soon after the Olympics are finished.
Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie of the Supreme Court of British Columbia was told Tuesday the disclosure process, which so far has led to the release of hundreds of thousands of government documents, is proceeding smoothly and may soon be concluded.
Andrea Mackay, a lawyer on the team headed by Special Prosecutor William Berardino, said "the Crown and defence counsels have been working together [outside court]to prepare the case for trial."
And she said the matter has been going so well she could not see the need for the judge to get involved in the process. In the past lawyers on both sides have come before the court to argue about numerous issues, but those hurdles seem now to have been swept aside, and the next substantive step is expected to be the setting of a trial date.
Outside court defence lawyers for Dave Basi and Bob Virk, the two aides charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes, said they expect the trial to get under way relatively soon.
Michael Bolton, Mr. Basi's lawyer, said if progress continues at the current pace the trial could be under way by March.
"We're moving to trial, for sure," he said.
Mr. Bolton said the defence had spent a lot of time arguing for disclosure of cabinet documents, and a court order directing the release of some disputed e-mails had finally cleared the way for that to happen.
"It's true that we fought tooth and nail to get the orders but at the end of the day . . . cabinet was co-operative in that regard and the process of producing the documents is unfolding in a very helpful way," said Mr. Bolton. "We are still going through the material. At this point we are happy with the way the process is unfolding."
Mr. Bolton said still outstanding is a defence request for access to the e-mails of current and former MLA's who were involved with discussions concerning the government's $1-billion sale of BC Rail in 2003.
But Mr. Bolton said he didn't anticipate any delays on that issue.
He said the defence has obtained "certainly hundreds of thousands. . .perhaps 300,000" government documents so far, but the disclosure process is now all but over.
Mr. Bolton said he's already started to think about the logistical problems lawyers will face when the trial starts, and huge volumes of material will be referred to as evidence.
"It's a massive case," he said. "I'm still not sure how we're going to deal with all the documents."
Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk are charged, along with a third former government employee, Aneal Basi, with allegedly trading in confidential government information concerning the sale of BC Rail to CN Rail.