Ex-PM says taking cash from Schreiber an error, but denies wrongdoing
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney and his wife, Mila, are followed by their children as they arrive on Parliament Hill to testify before the Commons ethics committee yesterday. Mulroney denied striking a deal with Karlheinz Schreiber while serving as prime minister.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney hesitated, then took the cash.
At an extraordinary four-hour hearing of the Commons ethics committee yesterday, Mulroney broke a 12-year silence and tried to answer the question Canadians have been asking: Why did he accept three envelopes stuffed with cash from German-Canadian businessman Karl- heinz Schreiber in 1993-94?
With his wife Mila and his four grown children watching, Mulroney talked for the first time about Schreiber handing him money during a meeting at a Mirabel Airport hotel in Montreal on Aug. 27, 1993.
After Schreiber “said he would like to retain me” to represent him internationally in a business venture, “he produced a legal-sized envelope and handed it to me,” Mulroney said.
“At this point, Mr. Schreiber said this is the first retainer payment. He told me there would be a total of three payments for three years. When I hesitated he said, ‘I’m an international businessman and I only deal in cash. This is the way I do business.’”
The 68-year-old former prime minister said accepting the cash was a “serious error in judgment” and “my second-biggest mistake in life.” The first, he said “was ever agreeing to be introduced to Karlheinz Schreiber in the first place.”
The two men have been linked since the mid-1990s when an RCMP investigation linked them to allegations of kickbacks in Air Canada’s purchase of planes. Mulroney sued the government, his name was cleared and the former Liberal government paid him $2.1 million in an out-of-court settlement.
And the two are still linked today: Schreiber is suing Mulroney because he says the former prime minister did no work for the money he paid him. And Schreiber has further legal problems because he faces extradition to Germany over charges of fraud, bribery and tax evasion.
Schreiber told the same committee during four appearances over the last two weeks that he gave Mulroney $300,000 in cash — $100,000 in two separate meetings in Montreal and another $100,000 at a meeting at the Pierre Hotel in New York.
But Mulroney yesterday disputed that, saying he received $75,000 in cash on each occasion, for a total of $225,000, and worked hard for it.
Mulroney also categorically denied discussing any business deal with Schreiber on June 23, 1993, at Harrington Lake, the prime minister’s summer home.