Opposition New Democrats raised questions Friday about how one of the men at the centre of the B.C. Rail corruption scandal is connected to the purchase and development of a property in Saanich.
Bob Virk, a former B.C. Liberal aide who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in the B.C. Rail case in October 2010, was listed as one of four people to purchase the property on Santa Clara Avenue, near Elk Lake, in December 2011, according to land title records.
At the time of the transaction, Virk was serving two years house arrest as part of a plea deal in which the government paid $6 million to cover his legal fees, and the legal fees of co-accused Dave Basi.
The government said at the time that it agreed to pay the legal fees in part because it was unlikely to recover the money from either Basi or Virk based on their limited financial assets. Mike de Jong, B.C. attorney general at the time, said only a “minuscule” amount of money could have been recovered from the men.
Since the 2010 plea deal, Virk has not been prohibited from having a job, making money or buying property.
Nonetheless, Virk’s involvement in land acquisition one year after taxpayers paid his legal bills “raises an awful lot of questions,” said NDP justice critic Leonard Krog.
“The fact this transaction took place at a time shortly after government decided these folks had no money or no ability to repay government $6 million, raises questions that deserve answers,” Krog said.
Virk is one of four people identified in land title records as purchasing the property for $619,000 on Dec. 13, 2011. Also listed are Sudershan Virk, Surinder Virk and Amerjit Virk.
Four months later, on April 2, 2012, Virk transferred his share, showing a market value of $155,000, to the three others for $1, records show.
The value of the property has since ballooned to $909,000 because of the construction of a yet-unfinished eight-bedroom, 11-bathroom house on the land, B.C. Assessment records show.
“The transactions between my family are between my family and myself,” Virk said when reached by the Times Colonist Friday. He declined to provide information about his involvement with the property.
“The optics are horrible,” Krog said.
It is the reason why auditor general John Doyle should be supported in his ongoing court fight with the B.C. government to gain access to records related to the indemnity deal in which Basi and Virk’s legal fees were paid, Krog said.
The government had refused to provide Doyle certain records, so the auditor general has been waging a court battle for access.
However, Doyle was recently denied a second term as auditor general by a Liberal-dominated legislative committee, and is set to be replaced this year.
“It emphasizes again why John Doyle should be reappointed, because he’s got the courage to find out the truth about this $6-million fiasco,” Krog said.
Basi and Virk, who were both aides to provincial ministers, pleaded guilty to breach of trust and accepting a benefit in exchange for leaking confidential information during government efforts to sell B.C. Rail.
The pleas came after the government agreed to pay $6 million in legal bills on their behalf.
The B.C. Justice Ministry said the terms of the amended indemnity deal do not permit the government to try to recover any future money or property that Basi or Virk might acquire.