He may have been a day late, but Len Barrie was not short on good humour and confidence as he came to court for the first day of a trial for unfiled taxes.
After being threatened with an arrest warrant Tuesday for not showing up at what was supposed to be the first day, Barrie was in court Wednesday morning and, though he was not on the stand, he was a presence in and out of the room.
At times gesturing in agreement with testimony and evidence being discussed, the former CEO of the Bear Mountain Master Partnership was demonstrative and talkative with reporters, witnesses and lawyers.
He said his refusal to appear on Day 1 had everything to do with not wanting to create “a media circus.”
“You saw that today, that’s why I didn’t want to come,” he said in an interview after Wednesday’s court session.
There were spectators inside and outside the courtroom most of the day and as many as four reporters and three camera operators.
Barrie was charged in December 2010 with two counts of failing to file tax returns in 2008 and 2009 for Bear Mountain Projects Ltd. Barrie has pleaded not guilty, and has pointed out the returns have since been filed.
Barrie faces a fine of $1,000 per count; he said while he could easily pay, he wanted his day in court.
“It’s principle, I can’t plead guilty to something I didn’t do,” he said. “I filed for 40 other companies on time, but [for Bear Mountain Projects] I had no way to and was not allowed to. It was held by the [Bear Mountain Master Partnership] and that was under the Companies Creditor Arrangement Act.”
The companies have been involved in the building and running of Bear Mountain Resort in Langford.
Prosecutor Cristin Peel had witness Diana Jamison of the Canada Revenue Agency describe the process by which the agency contacted Barrie to lay out what was required, including deadlines.
Jamison said several companies were behind in tax filing, including Bear Mountain Projects. Eventually all but Bear Mountain Projects filed, she said.
Jamison said she had been advised that while most of the returns were to be filed by an accounting firm, her agency would have to contact then Bear Mountain Master Partnership chief financial officer David Lindsay for dealings with two companies, including Bear Mountain Projects.
Under cross examination of Jamison, Barrie’s lawyer Paul Waller started to make his case that Bear Mountain Master Partnership controlled Bear Mountain Projects and, because it was under creditor protection, responsibility for filing tax returns fell to the receiver in charge and not Barrie.
HSBC, Bear Mountain Master Partnerships’ largest creditor, took control of Bear Mountain in the fall of 2010.
Barrie was removed as CEO in March 2010. At the time, the resort was in default on some loans and owed secured creditors more than $300 million.
The trial is expected to end today after Barrie takes the stand.
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