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Brian Mulroney's Big Score

From September 9, 2008

Recently, Stephen Harper has attempted to distance himself from advisor, and former prime minister, Brian Mulroney. This while Brian Mulroney has attempted to distance himself from German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber. Neither has been particularly successful in this.

At first Mulroney had claimed he had no connection with Schreiber until after he left office. But Karlheinz Schreiber's connections with Brian Mulroney go all the way back to 1983, when Schreiber raised $50,000 to support Mulroney's Progressive Conservative leadership race against Joe Clark.

Yet the connections seemed to go deeper. In 1995, the RCMP began an investigation into alleged kickbacks related to the purchase of Airbus A330 and A340 planes in 1988. Schreiber was a lobbyist for Airbus, and Mulroney's government had given $300 million to the recently privatized Air Canada to purchase the Airbus planes.

At the time there was little physical or corroborating evidence to support the case. Mulroney denied kickbacks and claimed he had no dealings with Schreiber as prime minister. In 1997, Mulroney sued the federal government for defamation of character, and the two parties settled out of court for $2.1 million dollars.

But by 2003, the story had changed. Mulroney admitted that he had received $300,000 from Schreiber over the course of 18 months in the 1990s. Further digging revealed that there were three payments of $100,000 each, withdrawn from Schreiber's Swiss bank account codenamed 'BRITAN.' One payment came just days after Mulroney had stepped down as prime minister but while he was still a member of parliament. Still, Mulroney denied any kickbacks, insisting the money was payment for consulting on Schreiber's pasta business.

In Fall 2007 the story again had new legs as Schreiber fought extradition to Germany on corruption and fraud charges. In what many considered a delay tactic, Schreiber sued Mulroney for services not rendered, claiming that Mulroney did not deliver on his $300,000 promise to help Schreiber build a truck factory in Montreal. Some questioned the reliability of Schreiber's testimony, but photos of Schreiber speaking with Mulroney in the Prime Minister's Office served to solidify their relationship.

Later, Schreiber testified that he had spoken with Mulroney in 2006, and had asked him to talk to Prime Minister Stephen Harper about Schreiber's extradition problem. Schreiber had also written two letters to Harper on the matter.

By the end of the week Harper had heard enough. His staff was full of former Mulroney government MPs, advisors, and appointees. Harper called an independent inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, and instructed all Conservative caucus members to have no dealings with Brian Mulroney.

As for Schreiber, conveniently enough, he remains in Canada until the conclusion of his independent inquiry.

Meanwhile, the Canadian taxpayers have yet to get back their two point one million dollars.