Friday, December 07, 2007

Mulroney-Schreiber: the timber edition

As always, some musings on the events of the day...

1. Bravo to Andrew Coyne for leading on this issue once again. Specifically, calling out Conservatives for their ridiculous spinning of the payments Schreiber made to Mulroney, the $300,000 in cash, as a "private business deal" gone wrong between two parties. Coyne did so on the National's At Issue panel last night. How utterly defined down the Conservatives have taken notions of propriety and public service to be actually spewing such lines in defence of Mulroney.

2. Well that didn't take long...Fred Doucet has denied Schreiber's Thursday testimony:
A former close associate of Brian Mulroney denied on Thursday allegations by Karlheinz Schreiber that he asked Schreiber to transfer money "for Airbus" into a Swiss bank account destined for the former prime minister.

Fred Doucet, Mulroney's former chief of staff, said Thursday that Schreiber's accusations were false. "If requested, I am prepared to appear before the ethics committee. I will co-operate fully with the committee," Doucet added in a prepared statement released Thursday.

Schreiber, who made his third appearance before the House of Commons ethics committee, said Doucet asked him to transfer money to a Geneva account belonging to Mulroney's lawyer.

He said he believed the meeting took place in late 1992 or early 1993 at the offices of Government Consultants International (GCI), an Ottawa lobbying firm started by another Mulroney confidante, Frank Moores. Mulroney was still prime minister at that time.

Schreiber said he asked what the money was for and was "shocked" when Doucet told him it was "for Airbus."

"I said, 'What the hell does Brian Mulroney have to do with Airbus?'" said Schreiber. "[Doucet] said, 'Are you naive?'"
Sounds like a pretty vivid conversation to me. It will be interesting to see if Doucet recalls their interactions with the same degree of detail or whether it will all be blanket denial.

3. Mulroney received $300,000 in cash from Schreiber that had been transferred out of the "Frankfurt" bank account maintained by Schreiber in Switzerland. That account was Schreiber's "commissions" account for all of the success fees he was paid by Thyssen, Messerschmitt-Bölkow Blohm and Airbus for contracts they obtained with the Canadian government.
Mr. Schreiber told MPs yesterday the Frankfurt bank account included a portion of the approximately $4-million he received when the Mulroney government signed an understanding-in-principle with his client, Thyssen Industrie, to build a military plant in Cape Breton in 1988.

While the Bear Head plant was never built, Mr. Schreiber received a payment from Thyssen when the agreement was signed by three Progressive Conservative cabinet ministers because the file was progressing.

Mr. Schreiber said the Frankfurt account also included commissions earned from Air Canada's purchase of Airbus planes and the Coast Guard's acquisition of helicopters from Messerschmitt-Bölkow Blohm.
It appears that Schreiber was right there in the midst of a number of financial transactions between such companies and Canadian government institutions. It is truly remarkable success, indeed, that Mr. Schreiber had with the Canadian government in obtaining these contracts for his clients. I mean, these are substantial purchases. What are the odds of one guy facilitating this number of deals with a national government?

4. Now here's a guy, Paul Cavalluzzo who knows how to ask questions. The written report on the CBC website doesn't do justice to the report on the National last night which highlighted Cavalluzzo's effective questioning of a witness who disputed the recent sensational testimony of James Bartleman. Bartleman claimed in front of the Air India inquiry to have seen a report indicating Air India would be a target on the weekend of the Air India disaster. Cavalluzzo established quite effectively that yes, the report Bartleman spoke of was referenced in federal government materials but it cannot be found. Doesn't mean Bartleman's not telling the truth, as suggested by witnesses today.

We need to see similar examination of Mr. Schreiber and other witnesses. Or by some other skilled lawyer or two, or three, to do the job that these Committee members cannot. It may not be until a public inquiry occurs that we witness fully effective hearings.

5. Bonus quote of the day from Schreiber:
Schreiber on Thursday praised his friendship with Elmer MacKay, but said he isn't on good terms with Peter MacKay.

"Allow me not to comment on his son. He is not the same timber and I do not wish to talk about it," said Schreiber. (emphasis added)
Doh! Now that's a mouthful for someone intending not to comment.