Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mulroney Finally Speaks

Mulroney appears before Commons Ethics Committee

Brian Mulroney finally broke weeks of silence today, as he testified before the House of Commons Ethics committee regarding his dealings with German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.

During the course of his testimony, Mulroney made it clear that he regrets ever having anything to do with Schreiber.

"My second biggest mistake in life, for which I have no one to blame but myself, is having accepted payments in cash from Karlheinz Schreiber for a mandate he gave me after I left office," Mulroney announced. "...My biggest mistake in life, by far, was ever agreeing to be introduced to Karlheinz Schreiber in the first place."

Mulroney testified that on August 27, 1993, he accepted the first of three payments from Schreiber. At that meeting, Mulroney said, Schreiber actually declared his intention to sue the federal government for not approving the Bear Head project. "[Shreiber] told me he had planned to pursue legal damages to recover costs and damages, he left me with a copy of the lawsuit."

"He then said that it would be very helpful to Thyssen to have a former prime minister assist in the international promotion of their peacekeeping vehicles and gave me a copy of merchandising documents regarding the vehicle."

"When I indicated that this kind of global activity was something I thought I could usefully do -- provided that none of the activity would relate to domestic Canadian representation -- he produced a legal sized envelope and handed it to me," Mulroney testified.

"At that point, Mr. Schreiber said this is the first retainer payment -- he told me there would be a total of three payments for three years."

Mulroney says he was hesitant to accept cash from Schreiber, but, "When I hesitated, he said 'I'm an international businessman and I only deal in cash, this is the way I do business.'"

Given that Schreiber has been noted to be in the business of dispersing money without leaving a paper trail, it's unsurprising that he would insist on dealing in cash.

Mulroney testified that he used the money to cover expenses while promoting Thyssen's Bearhead internationally.

"After accepting the international payment on the retainer, and during the time two subsequent payments were made, I made trips to China, Russia, Europe and throughout the United States of America where I met with government and industry leaders and explored with them the prospects for this peacekeeping vehicle,"

Yet, Mulroney's testimony before the committee clearly raises further questions.

First off, how much money was he paid in the first place? As well-publicized, Schreiber claims to have paid Mulroney $300,000 in three $100,000 installments (he was allegedly supposed to be paid $500,000). Today, Mulroney replied that he was, in fact, paid only $225,000 in three installments of $75,000.

Secondly, why did Mulroney claim he had never had dealings with Schreiber during the course of his libel suit against the federal government? If he hadd meant to note that he had no dealings with Schreiber regarding Airbust, that's exactly what he should have said.

It's evident that Mulroney has nothing to hide in regards to his dealings with Schreiber, but omissions such as that hardly help his case.

Last but certainly not least, Mulroney has yet to explain why he took so long to pay taxes on the $225,000.

Of course, further investigation into the testimony of each man will have to decide who is more credible. Naturally, Mulroney holds the advantage in this regard: presumably his lobbying visits on behalf of Thyssen will be recorded in the records of the Chinese, Russian, European and American officials he visisted while promoting the Bearhead.

Meanwhile, however, Schreiber has no paper trail to back his claims. His specialty has come back to bite him in the ass just as surely as he has come back to bite Mulroney's.

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