Still no charges in pipeline bombings

The Edmonton Journal, Canada/January 11, 2010

A massive police search of convicted oilpatch bomber Wiebo Ludwig's rural Alberta property in connection with a mysterious series of bomb attacks on gas pipelines ended Monday afternoon, with RCMP saying they left the farm with new evidence, but no charges at this point.

"I'm really not able to comment specifically other than to say we've obtained new evidence over the past few days," RCMP spokesman Insp. Tim Shields said. "We're going to submit it to Crown counsel after it's been forensically examined."

RCMP started a search of the 300-hectare property near Hythe, about 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, on Friday, executing a search warrant in connection with the six EnCana sour gas pipeline bombings in the Tomslake, B.C.-area.

They were looking for such items as pens, paper, computers and dynamite, according to Ludwig's lawyer Paul Moreau.

As police poured onto the property Friday, Ludwig was arrested in Grande Prairie at a prearranged meeting with RCMP. Moreau said he was advised Ludwig would be charged with extortion in connection with the bombings, but the 68-year-old was released without charges Saturday morning 24 hours later.

"We are confident after reviewing all of the information that is in our possession that we arrested the right person, for the right reasons and at the right time," Shields said Monday afternoon.

Now, he said, it will be up to B.C. prosecutors to decide if there is enough evidence to lay charges.

"In Alberta, the police can lay a criminal charge, whereas in a case from British Columbia it must be Crown counsel who lays the criminal charge," Shields explained. "And before a criminal charge is approved in British Columbia, the Crown advises police they want to see a substantial likelihood of a conviction and they won't approve charges until they see that."

Shields declined to comment on how things might have gone differently had the case been handled in Alberta.

"We just have to work with the cards that are in front of us right now, and that is because the crimes occurred in B.C. we are working very closely with Crown counsel from B.C.," Shields said.

Ludwig, reached shortly after the RCMP announced that their search was over, said he was unaware of the status of the search on his property.

"I'm as much in the dark as you," Ludwig said. "I'm in Grande Prairie. My wife is doing a little shopping and I'm sitting at the A&W. I haven't gotten home yet. I've been gone about three hours."

Shields said the RCMP would be removing their personnel and vehicles from the property as quickly as possible and thanked the families and residents at Ludwig's property.

"The families and residents at the farm were very accommodating and co-operative during this process and we appreciate their understanding," Shields said. "From a policing perspective, this search was conducted without incident largely because of the full co-operation demonstrated by the residents."

Ludwig has led a very public campaign against the oil and gas industry for years, claiming that sour gas wells have adversely affected his family's health. He served two-thirds of a 28-month prison sentence on five charges related to oilpatch bombing and vandalism in the 1990s. He was released in 2001.

The bomb attacks on pipelines in northeastern B.C. started 15 months ago. No one was hurt in the bombings, but police have called them domestic terrorism.

In October 2008 an anonymous letter sent to local papers demanded EnCana shut down operations around the B.C. community. A second letter in mid-July warned EnCana had three months to close up shop - a deadline that passed at Thanksgiving.

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