Thursday, February 14, 2008

Allan Rock testifies, Part I: And the LANGUAGE that they used...

Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice (1993-7) Allan Rock presented himself to the Commons Ethics committee on February 5. As with last Fall's testimony, the following is NOT a transcript, so quote at your own risk ;) Time-stamps are approximate. If you missed my coverage of Norman Spector's Feb 5th testimony, please click here.

And the LANGUAGE that they used...
4:55 PM
Szabo (chair, LPC): (introducing Allan Rock, former AG of Canada during the AB settlement; overview of rules of cmte). Would you like to be sworn in?

Allan Rock: I'd be happy to be sworn in . (clerk swears him in)

Szabo (chair, LPC): I understand you have an opening stmt...

Allan Rock: thanks. I know that we've got just 45 min before the vote, so I'll be reading my stmt. I believe it's been distributed to members, but I've tried to provide a framework for your questions. I served as Min Justice and AG from Nov 93 to June 1997. Recall that in dept Justice at time, there's something called International Assistance Group, lawyers who provide advice from other governments, eg regarding extradition. The IAG transmits to foreign authorities requests from Can police services to foreign police. The lawyers would send as a formal request from Gov Can for assistance. As 1995, 100-150 requests for assistance from justice on behalf of police depts. Every year. These letters were always treated by Dept w/utmost confidentiality. I'm told that there's never been an instance, before this one, where the contents of letter became public, notwithstanding that some of them named well-known figures. Wasn't setup to inform Minister as a matter of course. Min had no role in approving/disapproving letter going forward. Matter for police, and would be improper to have Min or AG interfering.

Allan Rock: We know that on Sept 29, 1995 a LOR went forward to the Swiss authorities on behalf RCMP, w/info about, among others BM. I was not informed or consulted before that letter was sent. I first learned of it on Nov 4th of that year, when I was telephoned at home by Roger Tasse (BM lawyer). I asked that he speak w/my Deputy Min, which he did. On Nov 6, I read letter for first time. BM's lawyers wanted LOR withdrawn. Justice and RCMP said it couldn't be, b/c already acted upon. Copies already given to KHS and Frank Moores. Also worried if an attempt was made to w/draw it, it might draw MORE attn, as it had not yet been mentioned in the Financial Post. Justice did send a followup letter to Swiss, emphasizing that everything in LOR was nature of allegation only, and must be read as such. Secondly, letter asked for scrupulous respect of confidentiality. That letter sent on Nov 14th to Swiss.

Allan Rock: On Nov 18, 1995, Financial Post published story about LOR, quoting at length of its contents. No explanation re: how FinPost obtained LOR. On that same day, BM's lawyers called presser in Montreal to announce that they were launching a libel action against gov and RCMP and asking 50 Mill in damages. Gov and RCMP defended action, and made efforts to resolve litigation w/o going to trial. BM examined under oath. Answers BM gave lead gov to conclude that he'd not had any dealings w/KHS. Two defences: any communication was protected by either absolute or qualified privilege (no action could be brought); second, none of defendents published libel.

Allan Rock: Letter served KHS in German language. Someone allowed for lawyers to translate this into English-call this the "Bloom(SP?) translation." An expert who prepared report, to prove version published in Post was Bloom translation--demonstrated link. If we could prove that the reporter had used this translation, then we could show in a courtroom that persons other than the defendants had published the libel.

Allan Rock: Shortly before trial, the DoJ learned that someone in RCMP, sometime in late 1995, had disclosed to 3rd party the fact that BM's name was in LOR. Counsel advised that unauthorized disclosure would destroy our first defense, that of disclosure, and weaken our second defense. We then proceeded to enter settlement negotiations, which (Fmr. Solicitor General) Herb Gray and I announced agreement on Jan 7, 1997.

Allan Rock: There have been suggestions from the outset that the RCMP investigation was begun for partisan reasons. The settlement agreement signed by BM lays out their perspective on this: paragraph 8, the parties acknowledge that procedure used in sending LOR was same as used in previous occasions. In para 9, parties acknowledge that RCMP on its own initiated investigation, that I was not involved, and that before Nov 4, 1995, I was not aware of LOR. We all learned that using language which is conclusory when talking about allegations is wrong. I asked for that to change and appointed (someone) to look into procedures in issuing LORs. I put those recommendations in place. I am now happy to answer questions.

5:05 PM
Murphy (LPC): You mentioned that you and former SG Herb Gray announced your intention to settle in Jan 97, but wasn't until late that year that you announced the final amt of the settlement. Either at the time of the Jan presser or Oct settlement, did you become aware of the cash payments made to BM (either 225K or 300K)?

Allan Rock: no

Murphy (LPC): you're no stranger to a court room. You know what I mean by a plea deal. In BM's pleading, said that he'd never had any bank account in a foreign country, although he's since admitted to having safety deposit boxes in various countries, and said he'd never received alleged payments in request for assistance, and I don't have to remind you that Mr. Schreiber's name is there in the request for assistance. In discovery, where Gov lawyers concluded BM had never had any dealings w/KHS, this discovery was in April 96 (here and here), and they go on to paint relationship between the two as 'just in passing,' re: German unification interests, and that KHS had coffee w/BM a few times. Did you review any of the discovery transcripts or were you fully briefed?

Allan Rock: I believe there was press coverage and I was briefed on the main points of discovery. I was generally aware of what was asked.

Murphy (LPC): heard from Norman Spector that BM and KHS had more than a relationship in passing. Also said that certain people have used 'AB' as a vague shorthand for the whole affair. Would you consider, knowing what you know now, i.e. that KHS gave BM 225-300K, would you consider vague to say "I had never had any dealings with him?"

Allan Rock: well, I'm not going to try to interpret what BM said. I CAN tell you, I guess, first of all, certainly the gov concluded from BM's testimony that he'd not had dealings w/KHS. And second, I was surprised to learn subsequently, in 2003, that there had been payments to BM.

Murphy (LPC): would you still recommend that the gov enter into the 2 mill settlement w/BM (if you had the same position NOW in government)?

Allan Rock: difficult to be categorical. I can say that, had there been disclosure at the time of the cash payments made to BM, it would have had a dramatic effect on that litigation. A profound effect. Questions would have been asked, docs would have been requested, safety deposit box records, tax returns...

Murphy (LPC): you would not have authorized settlement if you'd known of cash payments.

Allan Rock: assuming that they had been disclosed...we wouldn't have settled on THOSE terms, which isn't to say we wouldn't have settled on OTHER terms, but ...

Murphy (LPC): did you believe that the RCMP didn't know of these cash payments at the time of the settlement? Mr. Spector certainly feels that the RCMP didn't know about cash when they shut down investigation.

Allan Rock: I have no idea what they knew. They never raised it w/Mr. Gray, and Mr. Gray certainly never raised it with me.

Murphy (LPC): as far as RCMP investigation...did they continue to ack the investigation was going on, even after the settlement?

Allan Rock: yes, that was one of the terms of the agreement, that the RCMP would have the sole discretion to continue the investigation until they felt it had been concluded.

Murphy (LPC): memoranda suggest (from DoJ) that they considered trying to get this settlement money back, after learning of the cash payments. Do you find it surprising that the ministers of Justice (Toews, Nicholson) weren't briefed on attempts to get back the settlement funds?

Allan Rock: I don't know what they were/weren't briefed about. Could ask court to set aside settlement agreement if determined on something less than full disclosure. I'm not here to give advice to the Justice Dept, which I'm sure they won't need, nor political advice, which I'm sure the gov wouldn't accept (big smile)

Continue on to Part II ("But I *trusted* you, lyin' Brian!").

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