(This column was published in the North Shore News on Sept. 6, 2000)


Sidewinder-Echo scandal smoulders

By Leo Knight

EVER since the federal government's efforts to shut down the joint CSIS/RCMP Project Sidewinder became public last fall, there have been a great many more questions than answers.  


Sidewinder, you'll recall, was an investigation into the influence exerted on Canadian politicians and policy by elements of Asian organized crime and the communist government of China. The original report stated that China was the single biggest national security risk facing this country.  


Following what could only be called political interference by the Prime Minister's office, the investigation was prematurely closed and the report sanitized by CSIS under the new code name, "Echo." The shutting down of the investigation infuriated investigators with both CSIS and the RCMP. They argued there was more than sufficient evidence to warrant an expanded probe. But that was not to be.  


Following the efforts of Province news editor Fabian Dawson and Globe and Mail reporter Andrew Mitrovica, and the six or so pieces appearing in this space, the issue began to gather a little steam. This is, and I don't say this lightly, the biggest scandal this country has ever seen.  


Finally, after hollow denials by CSIS Director, Ward Elcock, the civilian watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee announced they were going to look into the matter. It appeared as though something might just crack which could shed some light into the dark corridors of the PMO.  


As we learned last week this is now likely to be another snow job as well. SIRC announced their report would be delayed until the end of the year.  


Why is that, you might ask? After all, they have had the best part of a year since Dawson broke the story. According to investigators close to the case, it has everything to do with the upcoming trade mission by Prime Minister Jean Chretien to China.  


Surely not. After all, the SIRC are independent of government by definition. Why, that would mean that, yet again, Chretien's office dictated to an independent agency looking into the influence gangsters and communists are having on our government.  


Not so, said SIRC's executive director Susan Pollak in an interview with Mitrovica last week. "We have a lot on our plate and we are a small agency," Pollak was quoted as saying in the Globe. "But I wouldn't want to give you a date (of the report's release) because sometimes things happen that create slippage."  


Slippage? What the hell is that? Is that how she describes a discreet call from the PMO?  


While this goes on, RCMP Sergeant Luc Lemaire is busy calling reporters who have written on the subject. He is trying to build a case against suspended Mountie Corporal Robert Read, who blew the whistle on the political interference involved in covering up the penetration of our embassy in Hong Kong by elements of Asian organized crime. Lemaire is doing the government's dirty work by trying to shoot the messenger.  


Now it is certainly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in all of this. Former Foreign Services officer, Brian McAdam, who first discovered and reported the criminal penetration, says this is all about the corruption of our politicians who have grown fat on the massive political contributions made by corporations such as those controlled by two of the major subjects of the Sidewinder probe, Stanley Ho and Li Ka Shing.  


Let's try and understand why the prime minister might possibly be interested in keeping a lid on the Sidewinder ramifications.  


Chretien's son-in-law is Andre Desmarais. He runs a huge company called Power Corp. Conveniently, Desmarais does a lot of business in China and actually holds a seat of the board of CITIC, described as the investment arm of the Chinese military, according to intelligence sources.  


Who else is on the board? Why it's Li himself. And wait a minute, didn't Li own a significant portion of Gordon Securities, the same company Chretien worked for and made his fortune with, when he took a sabbatical from politics prior to taking the leadership of the federal Liberal party?  


Couldn't that mean that just possibly, Chretien's name came up in the Sidewinder investigation?  


Chretien's trade mission to China will be the sixth such trip he has made in the seven years since he became prime minister in 1993. He hasn't been in British Columbia on official visits that many times.  


Now let it be said that it is possible that all of this is merely coincidence and Chretien is truly doing what he thinks is best for the country. But, in the face of the accusations made by Read, McAdam and senior investigators who actually worked on the Sidewinder project, I would suggest the air surrounding this whole thing is quite foul indeed and needs to be cleared.  


The SIRC report must be released immediately and if it necessitates the cancellation of Chretien's trade mission to China, well, so be it.  


Nothing less than the sovereignty of our country and the integrity of this government depends on it. Surely, those are important enough reasons to want to get at the truth. Even for the federal Liberals. But then again, it appears that SIRC may have already been compromised.






Primetimecrime current headlines               Columns 2000