Money for nothing?


Oh look.

A former senior executive of Bear Head Industries says he had no idea former prime minister Brian Mulroney was working for the company promoting its proposal to build light-armoured vehicles in Canada in the early 1990s.

Greg Alford, then vice-president of Bear Head’s corporate affairs, was testifying today before a public hearing probing Mulroney’s business dealings with German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber and the $300,000 in cash Mulroney received for unsuccessfully lobbying for Bear Head.

“No,” said Alford when asked whether he knew whether the former Progressive Conservative PM was working in any capacity for Bear Head beginning the summer of 1993.

So. Mulroney says Schreiber hired him to lobby for Bear Head internationally. Schreiber says he hired him to lobby for Bear Head in Canada. But the vice-president of Bear Head testifies that he’s not aware of Mulroney having done any lobbying for the firm, period.

Which doesn’t prove Schreiber didn’t hire Mulroney to lobby for Bear Head; Schreiber says he kept it a closely guarded secret. But there’s precious little evidence that he did, other than the list of dead foreign leaders Mulroney told the ethics committee he’d buttonholed. For his part Schreiber, though he complains that Mulroney did no work on the file, can’t explain what work he expected him to do and admits he never followed up or asked for progress reports.

Let me advance a tentative hypothesis: the whole lobbying-for-Bear Head story was a sham. Whatever reason Schreiber had for slipping Mulroney $300,000 in cash after he left office, it wasn’t to lobby for Bear Head — though it suited both Mulroney and Schreiber to say it was.

A propos of nothing, this is also interesting

Brian Mulroney’s former appointments secretary while he was leader of the official opposition in 1983 told the Oliphant inquiry Monday that he saw German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber in his boss’s office only once.

On that one occasion in the fall of 1983, Schreiber showed up accompanying Maxwell Strauss, the son of former Bavarian premier and Airbus chairman Franz Josef Strauss, Pat MacAdam told the public inquiry looking into business dealings between Schreiber and Mulroney.

Why is this interesting? Because Mulroney testified in 1996, in his famous $50-million libel suit against the government of Canada, that he did not know any member of the Strauss family — along with some other things that turned out not to be quite the whole truth.

And of course this is very interesting, too.

UPDATE: Mind you, Alford’s credibility is also in question. A former senior VP at Frank Moores’s notorious lobby shop, Government Consultants International, Alford told the ethics committee in February that GCI had no involvement with Airbus. We now know this is untrue. In fact, Alford himself worked the Airbus file.

UPPERDATE: But then, Alford is only one of several people, some with close ties to Mulroney, who have seemed reluctant to discuss their involvement with Airbus.

Moores himself — Mulroney’s onetime campaign organizer, fundraiser, and close friend, whom Mulroney appointed to the Air Canada board in 1985 — maintained to the day he died that he had nothing to do with Airbus or its deal to sell passenger jets to Air Canada; in fact, he pocketed millions in commissions from the sale. Indeed, he was working for Airbus as early as August 1983, two months after Mulroney won the Conservative leadership and eight months after the famous “dump Clark” convention where Joe Clark was pushed out — with the help of many thousands of dollars from Airbus chairman Franz Josef Strauss, dispensed via Schreiber.

Fred Doucet, Mulroney’s former chief of staff, also told the ethics committee that he had “no knowledge at all about anything involving Airbus.” In fact, documents have since come to light showing that he was intimately aware of it. Indeed, Doucet was drafting a memo to Schreiber detailing the precise number of planes Air Canada had taken delivery of on the very day Mulroney took his first delivery of cash from Schreiber.

Marc Lalonde, the former Liberal cabinet minister who also lobbied on behalf of Airbus, neglected to specify his involvement in his own testimony before the ethics commitee, saying only that he had not been hired by Schreiber to represent Airbus. In fact, as he later acknowledged, he had been hired by Airbus directly.

And of course, there’s Mulroney — who maintained under oath in 1996 that he had never had any dealings with Schreiber, after having taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from him — money that we now know came from a Swiss bank account (codename: BRITAN), into which Schreiber had deposited a portion of the millions of dollars in “success fees” he had collected for lobbying in Canada on behalf of his European clients, including Airbus. Did Mulroney know the source of the money? There’s no evidence that he did. And both men insist the payments had nothing to do with Airbus.

But if the inquiry’s mandate is to find out why Schreiber paid Mulroney all that money, and what if anything Mulroney did to earn it, it would seem an angle worth exploring, no?


Money for nothing?

  1. There is another hypothesis Andrew : what if Mulroney was scamming Schreiber and was just after the bucks and had no intention of doing any work at all for him = hmmm!

    • That wouldn’t explain Alford not knowing about it.

  2. Yes, but did he get his chicks for free?

    More seriously, what makes me suspicious about all of this is what Mulroney did with the money once he received it. Are we not so supposed to wonder why, if everything was on the up and up, Mulroney wanted cash payments with no receipts and then proceeded to hide the cash in his home safe or American safety deposit box.

  3. Just so we’re clear, the central idea to this whole thing is that Muldoon got the money for what he did for Schreiber while he was PM. But we can’t prove that, so we waste time poking holes in all this other stuff.

    Is that about right?

  4. The cover story is playing out as incoherently as one might expect in a situation where money changed hands and neither party wants to say exactly why.

    This suggests that if Schreiber ever does get extradited to Germany, and is going to jail anyway, the last sentence he will utter to reporters on the tarmac will include the words “air bus” and “Brian Mulroney.”

    – JV

    • How ironclad is the case against him in Germany, do you know? If he’s facing hard labour, maybe we could do a deal with him here, and he could live out his days as a minimum security prisoner or a lawn ornament or something.

      • Schreiber’s shinanigans have sunk the reputation of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the man responsible for a quick and relatively painless German reunification (not to say that Kohl was innocent). The German Right look at Kohl the same way that the Yankee Right look at Reagan – as one of the main protagonists who ended the Cold War and defeated the Soviets. They want his guts for garters – nowhere more so than in Bavaria, the home of the CSU. Aside from all of that, I understand that the case is fairly strong.

  5. “Whatever reason Schreiber had for slipping Mulroney $300,000 in cash after he left office, it wasn’t to lobby for Bear Head — though it suited both Mulroney and Schreiber to say it was.”

    Has it been established that Mulroney did not accept any of the money or promise of money until after he left office? The rest is just Schreiber’s elaborate scheme to avoid German justice.

    • No, I don’t think it’s been established (and it may never be), but it’s DAMN suspicious being so close to when he was in office.

      Coincidence that Schreiber, an extremely agressive lobbyist, felt the need to give Mulroney $300,000, in cash, which wasn’t reported for years, shortly after leaving office for no good reason? Too suspicious.

      Agreed that it’s in Schreiber’s best interest to be as obtuse as possible.

      • And here’s the thing about that. You know its illegal to accept money for lobbying while sitting in office as Prime Minister or MP. So–you WAIT before accepting an envelope of untraceable cash slipped to you, which you then stick in a safe or safety deposit box to avoid a date stamp? I mean, if you had waited, wouldn’t you WANT a cheque, or at least the bank deposit date stamp, to prove you waited?

        • It doesn’t really matter about the timing of any alleged corrupt gift, whether before or after the public official is in office. It matters what it was for.

  6. In the last edition of the Fifth Estate on the Airbus affair, Linden MacIntyre interviews Pierre Jeanniot who says that it didn’t surprise him that people were asking for commissions for the Airbus sale, but didn’t necessarily know about it :


    I didn’t find this totally credible, particularly after seeing the interview, but I can imagine a situation where somebody like Herr Schmiergeld was extracting commissions without actually doing anything to change the outcome of the Airbus decision. It still doesn’t explain why Mulroney accepted the money in cash though.

    • Cash in envelopes, stowed away in a safe deposit box, is a turd that cannot be polished.

      • LMAO, very nicely put.

  7. It seems odd that no one (like Kady?) is covering at least the highlights of the enquiry. Like today, when author/lawyer Wm. Kaplan’s testimony nicely summed up the issue:

    “I would say I was disturbed about the fact that I didn’t know about it (the cash payments),” he told the inquiry led by Justice Jeffrey Oliphant. Kaplan’s second book was published in 2004, six years after the first one.

    “But I was more disturbed about the fact a former prime minister of Canada met with someone in a motel a month after he left office, someone he dealt with in an official capacity, and received a cash payment and then had met with him in another hotel and received another cash payment and then had met with him in New York and received a third cash payment. I was disturbed about all of those things,” Kaplan said.


    It’s a mystery what question from Pratte would have prompted this response.

  8. I wish the Canadian government would sue Mulroney again and get their (I should say “OUR”) $2.1M back. I don’t think we’ll ever get a definitive answer on what he really did or did not do but at least any intelligent person would agree that Mulroney shouldn’t have received $2.1M from the pockets of Canadians. That’s some serious double-dipping.

  9. Airbus is the only real story here. Everything else is smoke and mirrors!

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