Today’s the day, you guys!
In just a few short hours, Karlheinz Schreiber will take the stand at the Oliphant Inquiry, where he will finally – finally – tell his story from start to finish, naming names and handing over hard evidence to back up his claims of cronyism, corruption and the cutthroat world of Canadian – and Conservative – politics. It’s going to be like the final episode of Lost, when all the lingering questions – yes, including the four-toed statue, and why any man in his right mind would fight for that drowned rat Kate – will be answered. No, really. Why are you looking at me like that? You’ll see! You’ll all see!
Tune in at 9:30 am for full liveblogging coverage of the first of what is tentatively scheduled to be four action-packed days of testimony by Karlheinz Schreiber.
First off, ITQ wants to apologize in advance for the fact that this is likely appearing somewhat later than the word “liveblogging” would suggest. Wouldn’t you know it – it’s a WordPress issue again; no sooner had she arrived at Old City Hall and pulled out the trusty berry to provide some pre-hearing colour did she realize, with a sickening thud of isn’t-always-on-the-important-days horror, that the edit app has been ever so slightly tweaked, with the end result that it apparently no longer allows posts to be updated. Which is sort of – a challenge, shall we say, to the whole concept of liveblogging.
Anyway, while I’ve been frantically emailing colleagues and muttering dark threats under my breath, the star witness has arrived – with a comets’ tail of cameras and boom mics, of course. Apparently he told the pre-hearing scrums that he’s going to deliver scandals in the plural – seven, apparently. That’s what you have to love about Karlheinz Schreiber – he thinks big.
Meanwhile, I’ve also discovered one of the less than awesome aspects to this particular venue – the skylights, which, while lovely and airy, are currently combining with the TV lights to create an effect best described as, well, blinding. I’ve donned my sunglasses, in fact, which adds just the right je ne sais quois to the previously mentioned dark muttering and frantic typing.
The other lawyers are bustling around as well, mindful of the always present threat that their pre-hearing huddles will make it into the establishing footage on the evening news — possibly even with sinister music — but Justice Oliphant hasn’t yet arrived. When he does – well, let the dance of the seven veiled allegations begin, right?
Huh. This is unusual — we’re actually late getting started; up until now, the hearings — well, every hearing that I’ve attended, at least — have been early. Then again, with the stage lighting and the full court press outside the door, it’s clear that this is the *real* launch — those other witnesses were just the warmup act.
Oh, jeepers — apparently, the reason behind the lateness was that the registrar – who normally takes the oath – was in an accident serious enough to require hospitalization, so they had to find someone to take over those duties. Which apparently they’ve done, because Schreiber, bible in hand, is taking the oath right this minute. The show is about to begin.
Well, after Schreiber’s lawyer, Richard Auger, puts it on the record that his client is invoking Section 12 of the Charter and Section 5 of the Canada Evidence Act.
The judge asks whether this is sufficient to assuage his client’s concerns over immunity, and Auger moues a little before assuring him that is is.
So you *know* his testimony is going to be juicy.
Auger turns the floor over to Richard Wolson, lead counsel to the Oliphant Commission, who kicks things off by introducing the evidence book — or books, rather — which is made up of five binders, including the background of Bear Head, documents, and – most importantly – Schreiber’s correspondence with prime ministers past and present. Yes, present: Remember, the terms of reference do provide the inquiry with a limited mandate to look into how PMO under Stephen Harper handled Schreiber’s increasingly irate letters about the vast conspiracy aligned against him.
Also in the document stack: various bits and pieces related to the Eurocopter contract.
Wolson begins his questioning of Schreiber by getting him to scooch a little closer to the microphone – oh, that isn’t usually a problem for him, counsel; trust us – before taking us on a brief, but still entertaining tour of the early life and times of Karlheinz Schreiber, from cherubic pink-cheeked German boy to — interior design? I’d forgotten about that —to some sort of chemical manufacturing interest just outside Munich: the infamous Bitucun.
After chatting about his close ties to the Strausses – pere et fils – and his growing fascination with politics, both German and, eventually, Canadian. His first Canadian businesses, his first home – in Edmonton – his Alberta real estate magnatery, which also involved the Strauss family – to Montreal. Truly, the Schreiber empire was one on which it seemed the sun would never set. Oh, and somewhere along the way, he obtained his Canadian citizenship, which was commemorated by telegram by none other than Brian Mulroney – despite the fact that he wasn’t actually living in Canada during the early 90s.
And he was a judge! Seriously, that always gets me. True, it was in a Munich commercial court and not, like, on some obscure Canadian federal tribunal, but still. Schreiber explains what he did — it sounds more like a tribunal than a court the way he tells the story, and he and Wolson chat about truth and oaths and all that stuff. Wolson notes that he – Schreiber, that is – has been calling for an inquiry for years, which leads to a rather meta exchange between the two about his media strategy over the years; from the “mysterious Mr. Schreiber” who would never return reporters’ phone calls to the current incarnation that you can’t pry away from the camera with a crowbar. Not, it bears noting, that such a penchant for publicity has anything to do with his credibility.
Anyway, Schreiber confirms for Wolson that he has long said that he’s the only one with nothing to worry about in this case — which Schreiber reconfirms — and then it’s on to the main tale, and his Montreal meetings with Brian Mulroney at the Ritz Carleton.
He – Wolson – grills Schreiber about the inconsistencies that have crept into Schreiber’s account of the number of meetings between the two over the years, from just three to more than five. And then suddenly we’re back in the heady days of Clarkmania – okay, slightly after the *height* of Clarkmania, since Mulroney was already collecting money for his leadership campaign. In Germany at the time, Schreiber – and one of the Strausses – were approached by several Mulroney supporters for donations, including Wolff and Michel Cogger.
Man, I forgot how complicated this gets.
Wolson goes back to the Eurocopter transcript – which, it transpires, is the source for this particular line of questioning – and wonders at yet another apparent incongruency; originally, Schreiber testified that the donation to Mulroney’s leadership was $20,000, but since then, he has upped that amount to $50,000. Schreiber tries to explain how he didn’t know the full amount until just last year, but it’s hard to follow his explanation. Then again, given the loosey-goosey political financing laws at thetime, it was probably hard to follow the money, too.
Oh, and according to Schreiber, it was perfectly normal for German Conservatives to make donations to their Canadian counterparts — there was a foundation to do so, even.
Back to Frank Moores, who was running Mulroney’s campaign at the time — that’s not an issue under dispute, is it? — which gives Schreiber his first opportunity to tangent merrily off from Wolson’s line of questioning – which he does often, always with a grave but benign mock scolding of the lawyer who didn’t ask quite the right question. This time, it seems to involve some sort of side deal with Mulroney and/or Moores – it’s not clear exactly which – to fund a Newfoundland-based company, but Wolson doesn’t really follow it up; instead, he wants to know more about the relationship between Schreiber and Mulroney — both before he became prime minister and afterwards.
And – onto GCI. I apologize, btw, for the relative lack of commentary, but this is pretty fact (well, allegation) -heavy testimony, and I figure we should get all that stuff on the ITQ record, as it were, before veering off into the realm of wild speculation. Anyway, Wolson confronts Schreiber with various past quotes, mostly in media interviews, in which he bragged about his access to the then-prime minister, and described “many meetings”, as well as phone calls, letters and fundraising dinners up until the infamous Royal York dinner.
“You often wrote letters to the prime minister,” Wolson observes. Yes. Yes, he did. Almost as if he anticipated one day carrying the whole pile – well, of his copies, that is – into a court room or public inquiry to prove that he wasn’t just one of those slightly reality-challenged sorts who imagines entire relationships out of nowhere.
I really have to wonder if Wolson is going somewhere unexpected with this latest gentle curve in his questioning; the Harrington Lake meeting, on June 23, 1993, which Schreiber all but crocodile tearfully confirms that this was not only a day that he will always remember, but a “sad” day. Indeed. Oh, and I’d forgotten about that bizarre alleged conversation between Mulroney and Schreiber at that fateful meeting, in which Mulroney was apparently all but certain that Kim Campbell would cruise to victory. They *did* have polls back then, right?
Shoutout to Elmer MacKay, who – as per Schreiber – was also part of the occasional Bear Head meeting club. It already adds up to more than ten meetings, Wolson points up, and Schreiber tries to rationalize the apparent inconsistencies — I should make that a macro. Wolson muses that Schreiber is actually a frequent guest on the fifth estate, which somewhat nettles him; the fifth estate, he informs Wolson, is a “pain”. So burdensome the price of fame, yes. Er, the pursuit of truth and justice, that is. That’s totally what I meant.
Ahh, that’s where Wolson was going — he demands – no, really, it’s the most forceful questioning I’ve seen yet — to know why Schreiber failed to tell the previous prosecutor about the meeting at Harrington Lake. Schreiber pleads ignorance — he doesn’t understand what Wolson means, so Wolson helpfully rereads still previous testimony from Schreiber, in which he denied ever meeting with Mulroney in private. Schreiber takes the novel tack of expanding his plea of ignorance to his own actions. *He* doesn’t know why he wouldn’t have ‘fessed up to the meetings. He’s at a loss. “This is all based on Eurocopter,” he reminds Wolson. In his mind, the questions were about meetings to do with Eurocopter, nothing else. Wolson seems — less than persuaded, it’s safe to say. He proposes that Schreiber actually didn’t want to *tell* the prosecutor about those meetings, which Schreiber seems to find possible, but unlikely.
And with that, it’s time for the first break of the day. See you in fifteen minutes!
Still not back from the break, which gives all the various TV reporters here a much needed opportunity to do the-story-so-far standups outside. Which is – kind of nerveracking, actually, since the moment you step out the door, you’re in danger of becoming a star of everyone’s background footage, so if you see me drifting vaguely through the crowd, that’s why.
Schreiber, interestingly, is *not* holding a mid-morning media availability, but is still at the witness table, flipping through documents, and likely wondering where the relentless Richard Wolson’s questions will go next.
I’m surprised there aren’t more tourists, actually — I mean, spectators who aren’t media, or counsel to one of the parties.
Oh! We’re back – and it’s time, Wolson tells us — well, Schreiber, really — to look at the background of Bear Head Industries, and that fateful airplane meeting between Schreiber and one of the directors of Thyssen. They started talking business – well, of course – and Schreiber learned that the company had been approached by the Canadian government, and, as per Wolson, immediately saw this as an “opportunity” for him. Schreiber hems and haws before acknowledging that yes, he did, he supposes; there was the question of jobs for Nova Scotia – and a cameo appearance by Sinclair Stevens (who I so hope makes it onto the witness list this time around).
“Job creation was my whole life,” Schreiber tells Wolson. Quite so, Herr Schreiber, quite so.
These are the tabs of your life, Karlheinz Schreiber. As directed by Wolson, the witness obligingly stares at a page halfway through the first binder, which, we’re told, is a record of correspondence between Hastart and Kleinger, who were involved with Thyssen, I gather. There are references to money – “a lot of money,” Wolson points out, as well as accounting details and still more German names which would probably set off alarms for more scholarly Schreiberologists.
Hey, remember Pelossi, the Italian (I think) accountant who appeared before the Ethics committee? Well, he’s the guy who apparently wrote one of the letters Wolson is methodically dissecting; it involves a million dollar bonus for Schreiber, at which point “the money starts to come in”. To make things happen, however, Schreiber needed an understanding in principle with the Canadian government, Wolson points out. That was the key to netting the “success fee”. So on the 23rd of September, 1988, just that was signed by three ministers – Merrithew, DeCotret and Perrin Beatty – who will, Wolson notes, be a witness. (The other two are, of course, deceased.) Wolson reads from the legal disclaimer included in the agreement, which stresses that it is not a legally binding contract. There’s also a letter from Lowell Murray with the same date – now a senator, of course – that says, as per Wolson, that he emphasizes that the UiP *does not* commit the Canadian government to any military project in which Schreiber may have an interest.
Slight delay due to tab-related confusion on the part of Schreiber, who confesses that he’s “lost”. Eventually, he is found – or rather, the letter from Murray to which Wolson is referring is found – and Schreiber expresses little surprise at the caveat-yness of the agreement. He then corrects Wolson when the latter suggests that the other parties involved were convicted and jailed in Germany for their activities; Schreiber points out that they were actually acquitted of the bribery charges, although found guilty of tax evasion, and were not sent to jail. Point to Schreiber.
Oh, now we’re onto the IAL account – yes, *another* obscure little bank holding – over which only Pelossi had signing authority, according to Schreiber.
And now, the all-star Bear Head lobbying team, starring Fred Doucet — who, Schreiber recalls, told him he was the only person who could see Mulroney in his bedroom, a registrable activity oddly overlooked by the FAA, and Perrin Beatty, amongst others. There was also Frank Moores, who ran Mulroney’s leadership campaign, and Gary Ouellette.
Fred Doucet, Wolson notes, sent an invoice to Bitucin for $90,000 in November, 1988. Schreiber gets a little dodgy about the timing – he isn’t willing to say for sure whether he hired Doucet right after he left government, but he dismisses Wolson’s scepticism as to why he needed *yet another lobbyist*. To get Perrin Beatty to sign, Schreiber points out. It was a “success fee”. There were a lot of those going around at the time, weren’t there? Which is strange, considering that the “mission”, as Schreiber puts it, was ultimately unsuccessful.
And more invoices – the same date and for the same amount as that submitted by Doucet. It was all for their support on the Bear Head file, Schreiber tells him. “You got an invoice, you wrote a cheque,” Wolson sums it up. Yup, that’s about it – although it was Bitucan’s money, not his personal stash.
Wait, don’t invoices that are retainers, and not one-time “success fees”, make note of that fact, and how long it covers? Vague bookkeeping protects no one.
And finally, to the biggest cheque of the bunch – $250,000 to GCI, once again a “success fee”. This is the sort of thing that gave contingency fees a sufficiently bad name to eventually be banned entirely, isn’t it? Oh, Schreiber would like to point out that he had more than the Understanding – and the land in Nova Scotia – but he had Mulroney’s “word”. When? By 1988, according to Schreiber, who delivers an impassioned retropitch for the Thyssen/Bear Head project, which would have brought thousands of jobs in Nova Scotia, which is what Mulroney wanted. He still regrets the fact that it didn’t happen.
Hey! Another person who took Schreibermoney in cash instead of inconvenient cheque form: Mr. Hastart, who was working for Thyssen as the “specialist for special jobs” — note to PMO title-cointer; add “strategic” to that and you’ve got your new Patrick Muttart! — and who received over half a million dollars without even submitting an invoice. Oh, but it’s okay, because part of that was a donation to the German Christian Socialist Party. Didn’t the German authorities want to see, you know, a receipt, Wolson wonders. Not so much, apparently – not personal donations, since the tax had already been paid.
Oh, great – now there are unpaid, forgiven loans to be folded into the I-dare-someone-to-flow-chart-this complex accounting system employed by Schreiber/Biticun/etc. And a shoutout to Allan MacEachen – a Liberal and also a Friend of Karlheinz, but more importantly, in this context, a Nova Scotian. It’s all about Nova Scotia; specifically, Cape Breton.
More about the LAVs – or, as I like to call them, the jeeps. “Things were not going well with government,” Wolson thunders. Au contraire, Schreiber parries: things were going swimmingly as long as National Defence and Robert Fowler weren’t involved, who then gives a scattershot scolding to the entire Defence department for its failings, past and present, and suggests that this is one of the reasons why Canadians continue to die in Afghanistan – another young woman, just this morning. It’s not right, he tells the inquiry. “Are you finished your outburst,” asks Wolson, who has definitely been doing his prepwork on Schreiberhandling.
Oh, I love it when Schreiber waxes lyrical about his very good friend Elmer MacKay; on this occasion, it is a letter between the two that prompts the glowiness from Schreber, but it isn’t a very glowing letter, apparently, as it discusses – again – Thyssen’s dwindling interest in keeping the project alive.
More correspondence related to the then somewhat capricious process for military procurement, courtesy of the Ghost of Schreiber Past – it must be disconcerting to have your old letters read into the record, and be forced to clarify and explain.
Huh. Apparently, he and his buddy Elmer toured Nova Scotia “many times”, making speeches and putting ads in the paper before the election, but afterwards, nobody paid any attention to them. It might be worth going through the newspaper archives from those days to see what kind of coverage the dynamic duo of jobs! jobs! jobs — Bear Head style! managed to generate.
Schreiber is definitely not a fan – still – of Fowler, who he blames for blocking the deal outright, even though these were the best vehicles. Defence officials “made fun”, Schreiber claims, of the Bear Head vehicle’s resistance to chemical and nuclear attacks, and blames Fowler for the deaths of hundreds of Canadians. Which is what I’d call a high risk strategy, given the uncertainty and concern over Fowler’s current status.
More about how angry and – no, actually, angry pretty much sums it up – over the decision by Fowler to scuttle the deal; Wolson points out that NATO was “unifying” equipment, which meant that Thyssen could, in theory, supply all of them. There was a “significant export component” to the Bear Head project, Wolson suggests, and Schreiber agrees.
And – hey, it’s a letter to Michael Wilson, in 1991 the country’s finance minister, and now, of course, our Ambassador to the US. Schreiber then makes me giggle by repeating the name “Pictou?” confusedly when Wolson asks about the possible change of location for the plant; it really is an odd name for a region, although it’s also part of the name of the riding currently represented by the son of his beloved Elmer. Also, I think the stress of not being able to update via WordPress is starting to get to me (although big huge thanks to Colleague Gohier and everyone else who has pitched in as posting proxy).
Schreiber, it transpires, did not think much of the then government’s style of contract negotiation; eventually, he recalls, it started to seem more like a mental clinic than a relationship with “serious businesspeople.”
Okay, as Wolson begins reading yet another letter, it is becoming increasingly clear that the prediction of four days of hearings devoted entirely to Schreiber was probably *not* an exaggeration; this is, of course, just the first round of questioning – all the other parties will get a crack at him too. Four days may be too conservative, even. There’s just so much *stuff*.
At first, Wolson says, the idea was a “starter order” of 150 or so vehicles, but that evolved to a request for a couple of prototypes first, according to yet another letter from the Schreiberchives. The eventual location for the putative project, meanwhile, had meandered all over Nova Scotia – Trenton, Cape Breton, Canso – and then eventually to Quebec. Schreiber chuckles when presented with a letter from Benoit Bouchard – then minister for Quebec regional development – and Wolson asks somewhat stiffly just what he finds so funny; it was being “kicked all around government”, according to Schreiber. All these old letters bring it back.
Note: I would just like to correct my characterization of Pelossi as an “Italian accountant” — he was Swiss, and thanks to my correspondent for the correction. I’m sure you could beat me to a pulp at Mulroney/Schreiber Trivial Pursuit.
Oh, fine, back to the testimony; Schreiber is reminding Wolson that he “knows what war is”, and the commission counsel apologizes for whatever it was that he said that rubbed Schreiber the wrong way *this* time. He – Wolson, that is – seems to be leading the witness slowly, but inescapably to the admission that most of the lobbying that he – or rather Bear Head – would have required by that point was *international* — coincidentally, exactly what the former prime minister ostensibly performed.
Or at least, that’s where I think he’s going; I’ve been wrong before.
At that most enlightening moment – just as Schreiber estimates that the Bear Head deal would have made him a billion dollars – Wolson breaks away from his interrogation of the ever-so-slightly more nervous-looking Schreiber to offer to break for lunch – a suggestion the judge cheerfully accepts.
That’s it for the morning session, I guess. Time to hit the media room to get a look at some of those exhibits. See you back here at 2pm sharp!
Okay, so apparently while I was in hot pursuit of a scone (not a scone*wich* this time, although that will come as I get more confident with the geography around here, and more specifically, how long it takes to get from A to B when one is berrying furiously the whole way) — anyway, I missed the Robin Sears lunchtime scrum, during which he warned all and sundry that his client was watching, and that he sees this as the final attack on his legacy. He didn’t mention whether Mulroney is grimly refreshing the liveblog as a complement – a bonus track, as it were – to the live coverage on the major news networks, but on the off chance that he is, ITQ would like to gently point out that so far, it is *Schreiber’s* legacy that has been under fire by Wolson. If he thinks this is bad, well – I wouldn’t want to be in Team Mulroney’s section of the green room after he finally takes the stand. Which, by the way, is a subject of much speculation amongst the media masses — someone suggested he may be up next week, which would be a very different timeline than the Ethics committee, where Schreiber opened, and he closed the show. Someone else said May, which makes more sense, although you could make a decent argument that he shouldn’t necessarily get to go last, since that means no subsequent witnesses can be questioned on his claims. Anyway, that’s what makes this fun, right? The total lack of predictability?
Also, is this the first federal judicial inquiry to be liveblogged? I can’t actually remember another one being so covered – not by ITQ, anyway – but it’s not like I’m the only liveblogger in the country. What’s nice is that it was never even an issue — I didn’t have to make the usual “but think of it as a teeny tiny computer!” argument against the standard no-berries-in-the-courtroom rule.
Is there a camera permanently assigned to Schreiber’s entrances and exits? I mean, not that there shouldn’t be, I guess – it could be like a very specific pool.
We’re back! Rise, stand, sit – and over to you, Richard Wolson, who picks up pretty much exactly where he left off, with Bear Head – which, he suggests, was an “evolving” process, based on events as they transpired; from a straight purchase of vehicles to an R&D project with no actual obligation on the government to *buy* anything to — oh, he’s moved on, back to the binders — still number one, which should give you some idea how long this first round of questioning might take.
The date was May 13th, 1992, and Schreiber was requesting a Memorandum of Understanding, and not for the first time. Why did he need that, Wolson wonders? The situation had changed, Schreiber tells him – there were more partners, like Lavelin and certain German entities — wait, that sounds more sinister than it should; legitimate German businesses, then. This MoU would satisfy “new partners”, he and Schreiber agree.
Oh, and back to this morning’s testimony for a moment — Fred Doucet, according to Schreiber, was responsible for getting Perrin Beatty’s signature on the Understanding. Who told Schreiber that he did the deed? Frank Moores, according to the witness, who notes that Doucet never went anywhere without Mulroney’s backing.
Wolson notes, seemingly but not at all out of nowhere, that Schreiber is the kind of person who speaks up when he’s not satisfied, which Schreiber, with only the tiniest bit of hesitation – because he learns fast, this one, and he’s already wary of Wolson’s ability to snag him in an invisible lasso. There’s a bit of back and forth about poor Kim Campbell — apparently, Schreiber suggested that if she was to replace Mulroney as PM, she should resign as defence minister, and then – oh, right, the GM sole source contract. Schreiber was “kind of angry at that”, no? I mean, it meant that Thyssen never even got the chance to bid on the project. In the letter, Schreiber goes on at some length about military equipment, and a loan of vehicles from Germany for Canadian troops in Yugoslavia.
Schreiber, by the way, is definitely more subdued and uncomfortable than he was this morning.
Hey, shoutout to Jean Charest! Actually, more of a teaser — some sort of meeting between Schreiber, Corbeil and Charest – that Wolson promises he’ll get back to later. The target market for the next big Thyssen campaign, it transpires via Wolson, was international clients, particularly NATO and “NATO-friendly” countries. “It’s pretty clear where Thyssen was going with this product,” Wolson comments.
Oh, and now we get more on the Charest/Corbeil meeting, which also involved Fred Doucet, and a memo from the event seems to back up Wolson’s main contention, which is that this was a “worldwide” initiative.
Another once and future witness heard from, in memo form: Greg Alford, who sent one to various and sundry key figures about the defeat of the Conservatives, the arrival of the Liberals in government and, as a result, Mulroney’s suddenly much less enviable ability to lobby the Canadian government on behalf of Thyssen.
Wait, wasn’t there are already a two year ban on him, though? Or was that initiated under Chretien?
Wolson reads a list of NATO, NATO-friendly and non-NATO countries that were to be targeted, including everywhere from the United States to Libya — but no Russia and no China. “No Communist countries,” confirms Schreiber.
Wait, wasn’t at least one of those countries amongst those Mulroney self-allegedly lobbied? Or am I getting confused? We need a Google Map of all the various locations involved, from Pictou to Zurich to Leichenstein. Anyway, Wolson points out that Alford – who will probably be appearing sooner rather than later – will testify that Mulroney wasn’t lobbying domestically. Schreiber doesn’t buy his assertion that people – Marc Lalonde, Fred Doucet, Frank Magazine; someone, anyway – would have noticed if Mulroney was lobbying the new Liberal government, and Schreiber looks – and sounds – sceptical.
Oh, that meeting with Corbeil and Charest was right before he gave Mulroney money at Mirabel, Wolson points out. He’s so helpful.
And another appearance by MacEachern – “who is a Liberal, yes?” – with whom Schreiber wrote one of his now familiar screeds on the woeful condition of the Canadian military, and making it sound like he and Al would team up to save the day. In fact, it seems to *Wolson* as though Schreiber was trying to ingratiate himself with whatever party happened to be in power. Well, yeah. Is that up for debate? And I still don’t see how any of this actually corroborates *or* disproves Schreiber or Mulroney’s respective claims, and I’m about to get cranky when I remember that this is the *establishing* testimony. We need to get through all this stuff before the witness can be crossexamined. Patience. Deep breaths. At least the sun has moved on, right?
Wow, it’s like he heard my internal grumbling – Wolson just finished his very last Bear Head-specific question, which he’s sure Oliphant – and, by extension, the rest of us – is glad to hear. (We are.)
Onto the end of the Mulroney era – actually, the end of the Progressive Conservative era, since by that point, Wolson suggests, Schreiber must have known that the Liberals were poised to win the election, and that Mulroney would no longer be a valuable asset for him.
“There were people who believed in a miracle,” Schreiber rather piously reminds him. After all – Kim Campbell was a girl! Just like “Maggie” Thatcher! Which meant that voters *could* have… yeah, not even he seems to be able to take that any further. I wonder if she’s going to testify, actually. She’d be a fascinating witness.
An astonishing amount of leadup questions to get to a simple meeting between the soon-to-former prime minister, Jean Corbeil and Schreiber, in Centre Block in early June; another meeting the next day with Bob Charest, brother of the then-minister now premier, who was with Revenue Canada, and used to just pop up every now and then. Yeah, I didn’t get that either. He – Bob – hit Schreiber up for a donation to his brother’s leadership campaign, which he eventually forked over – in cash, of course – totalling $30,000. Ahh, those were the days, huh?
Schreiber wonders if it’s possible that the leadership convention was actually going on at the time that he and Elmer MacKay met with Jean Charest – which it was – but he gave the money to Brother Bob – I love that we have a random Bob floating in and out of the plot – earlier.
Also, the German for “meeting” is “treffen”. At least, that’s the phoentic spelling, and that’s how it often appeared in Schreiber’s diary.
Finally, we’re back at the Harrington Lake meeting, arranged by Fred Doucet, which was not, according to Schreiber, just a “farewell courtesy visit”. He didn’t even know where it was, so the soon-to-be former prime minister sent a limo to fetch him, and a freshfaced young staffer drove him back. And that freshfaced young staffer grew up to be … actually, we still don’t know. I remember asking this exact same question during the committee hearings, though, because the idea of submitting a tender, idealistic young Tory to the Schreiberthrall for the hour or so that it takes to drive back to Ottawa is just *mean*.
And now, an excerpt from the Secret Trial – page four, if you want to follow along at home – when, according to Kaplan/according to Schreiber, he was driven home by limo, not private car. Schreiber calls it “pure nonsense” and Wolson eyebrows (I can’t actually see his face, but I’m pretty sure there was eyebrowing) that it’s mighty peculiar that Kaplan would make all that stuff up on a whim. *Or* he got confused between Schreiber’s arrival and his departure. I mean, honestly – why would Schreiber make up a witness who could theoretically be found and compelled to testify? It just doesn’t make sense.
Oh, again with Mulroney and the reunification of Germany. Apparently, that was just one of three reasons why Schreiber wanted to meet with Mulroney on that night. He and George Bush Sr. stood up to the Maggie Thatchers of the world who didn’t want to see a single Germany.
Finally, they’re getting to the nuts and bolts of the agreement that was or wasn’t reached during that fateful encounter. It’s all based on Schreiber’s testimony at the other hearing – Eurocopter, maybe? – anyway, Wolson is going through the contract/memo/unused napkin, clause by clause — including the presentation to Schreiber of an official, signed photograph of Mulroney in the House of Commons, which he subsequently received.
Back to the meeting, and Schreiber estimates that he was there for an hour and a half or so — “it was a nice day”. The two talked politics, fan photos, future lobbying work — you know, man stuff. They planned to meet later in the summer – and Schreiber had already mentally earmarked half a million dollars from “the Frankfurt account” — that was Frank Moores’ money — for Mulroney. As for where the money originally came from, that’s a little more vague: it was for “projects” that may or may not have been related to Thyssen. It was a magic bank account that was refilled by elves and could be dispersed on a whim even by people with no signing authority, I guess.
Wow, this *is* starting to come back to me. I think I’m getting smarter! (Exeunt liveblogger down trapdoor to an oubliette.)
(Sorry, trying to set up Opera in the background so I can actually post for myself rather than abusing poor Colleague Gohier, but unfortunately, it doesn’t let me switch back and forth between apps, which is making this far more difficult than it should be.)
Anyway, the Mirabel meeting, at which Schreiber brought the ever popular gift of a cash-stuffed envelope — stuffed with thousand dollar bills, just to paint a word picture — totalling $100,000 or so. So really, an entirely manageably sized envelope, in case anyone was thinking of Gomerying this up by asking exactly how thick that would be.
Wolson wonders what Schreiber told Mulroney the money was for, and he sort of waves vaguely — or at least his voice does. It turns out he finds the idea of Mulroney working on the pasta file as absurd as the rest of us, but his chuckling seems to irritate Wolson more than – actually, given what a long day it’s been, I’m going to cut everyone some slack. (What can I say, I’m just that kind of girl.)
Did Mulroney say anything to him? “Yes, he said thank you,” Schreiber recalls, prompting some giggles from the audience. He said nothing about being an international businessman who dealt only in cash; he just told Mulroney, hey, here’s some money.
You know, stories that start out with, “I met a friend in a hotel room, he needed money ..” rarely involve former prime ministers. Or German-Canadian arms dealers. Sorry, mind starting to wander a bit, but we’re getting to the nub of the issue, and it’s clear that Schreiber is getting his ginger back, bit by bit, as the more dangerous areas of focus are exhausted. He explains to a somewhat nonplussed Wolson that personal relationships are “everything” when it comes to money.
“Let’s really be straightforward, Mr. Wolson,” Schreiber says. Oh, this should be good. Anyway, he – Schreiber – reminds Wolson that he really just wanted to help out a friend — he wasn’t going to ask that many questions, he was just there to hand over some cash. And no, he didn’t get a receipt.
Anyway, Wolson wonders whether Schreiber was paying taxes in Canada at that point, which he wasn’t — well, not personally, although his corporations did so. Wolson sort of indirectly wonders why he didn’t funnel the money through Bitucan, but Schreiber dismisses that notion; he didn’t want to set up a whole “construction” to deal with the cash, he just wanted to help out his friend.
And – hey, a break! For twenty whole minutes. See you then!
And we’re back – I don’t know for how long; technically, it’s supposed to end for the day at 4:30, but it might go longer. Wolson – who is in Grumpy Mode, not to be confused with a Tilsonian crankiness – wants to know why he met with the still-then-PM on June 3, 1993, and Schreiber tells him it was to discuss the Bear Head project. Ahh, but wasn’t that the subject of any number of letters he’d already sent to Mulroney? Did he just repeat himself? No, no, Schreiber assures him – it might have been anything. They could have told jokes! They could have discussed the leadership convention!
Wolson unloads on Schreiber at this point, all but accusing him of trying to hide things from the judge, which Schreiber stoutly denies. He points out that much of this has been covered in previous books and articles, and Wolson reminds him that the judge – this judge, presumably – hasn’t necessarily read all that Schreiberphenalia.
Back to the Frankfurt account — I’m sorry, I have to capitalize that; the Frankfurt Account, and the source of the funds therein, which came from Bear Head – or commissions – and then moved back and forth, in and out, but always in Frankfurt.
Oh, speaking of in and out, is it possible that the infamous A. Hamilton – lawyer to the Conservative Party – is here? I can’t tell for sure, but it certainly looks like him. Thinking about that makes my head hurt, though, so let’s go back to the wonderful world of German banking, and helping friends.
To get money for Mulroney, Schreiber says, he had to “make a deal” with Frank Moores, since he – Moores – wasn’t keen on the idea of signing over a few hundred thousand dollars to Mulroney. But Schreiber reminded Moores that he owed him – Schreiber – money, whereupon he “freed” the money and brought it to Canada to give to Mulroney.
But that’s not what he told Szabo, thunders Wolson, who directs the witness to a letter to the Ethics committee chair, in which he claimed that the $2 million was divided between Mulroney and his friends, and that this money was “marked” for him. Unbothered, Schreiber says that’s what Frank Moores told him, and since Frank Moores is dead, that’s just — well, that’s it.
Bruce Vercheres spotting! Just a passing reference by Schreiber, but still.
Oliphant, for the record, seems to be following along enthusiastically; Schreiber nearly drives Wolson round the bend with one word when he asks him what “concoct” means – this is over the Szabo letter, in which Schreiber claimed that the plan was “concocted” by Mulroney, when it was actually *he* who “concocted” the plan. “It was your deal with him,” Wolson snarls.
Oliphant intervenes: Did someone write the letter for Schreiber? Yes, Mr. Seneca – which I’m probably misspelling. But he did sign it, Wolson notes, which meant that he thought it was true.
Wolson muses that, other than Mulroney and Schreiber, everyone who knew about this deal is dead. Yeah, that’s sort of the problem. But getting grumpy isn’t going to bring them back to life, is it?
And fast forward to 2004, and an interview Schreiber had with William Kaplan at the Four Seasons in Toronto. According to Kaplan, Thyssen had spent almost $6 million on the project – and agreed to spend half a million more, which became the Bear Head account. Wolson wonders if he “just dreamt that up” — Kaplan, that is — and Oliphant intervenes again to ask what book, exactly, this was. The Secret Trial, Wolson tells him – the second book. He doesn’t know whether this particular interview was for the second book or not, and Schreiber helpfully points out that Thyssen couldn’t have paid the money, since it was a company, and there would be statements and things. “The interview doesn’t change the figures in the accounts,” Schreiber points out, which leads to a fascinating exchange between the witness and Wolson over whether the commission has *all* his accounts, a propositon that Wolson, at least, greets with still more heavy sarcasm. Which, incidentally, turns out to be a fairly effective tool in examining wriggly witnesses. Is there anything it can’t do?
Finally, a not entirely insane suggestion from Schreiber as to how Mulroney could still be helpful even after the 1993 massacre of the PCs: he still had influence provincially, particularly in Quebec. He’s still not willing to concede that the failure of the Kim Campbell Miracle had become painfully apparent long before voting day.
Oh good, another tab – this, a list of names: Corbeill – 10, Charest – 5, Chretien – 5,000, Martin – 5,000 – Chiasson 5,000. “These were party donations from Bear Head,” Schreiber suggests. Yes – playing both sides of the aisle, pounces Wolson. “I did not,” says Schreiber, but allows that Bear Head *could* have done so, and he found out.
Wow, Norm Spector must be feeling awfully smug right about now.
Wolson reminds Schreiber that he was actually chairman of the company at the time – Bear Head, that is. Greg Alford, on the other hand, was the president, and would know if Mulroney was lobbying nationally. Schreiber insists that this isn’t necessarily true; the daily work – the administration, watering the plants, that sort of thing – was done by Alford; he did the — what exactly does he do? Not party donations, but hiring lobbyists, I guess. It was Alford who was the fundraiser, Alford who went to the parties, Alford who —
Well, huh. Apparently, Wolson is going to move to a new area now, which means we’re probably about to adjourn. Yup, Oliphant tells him he can go ahead and do that tomorrow morning.
One burst of questions from Oliphant, who wonders when, exactly, Schreiber found out about the Liberal donations, which confuses Oliphant, since it was entered in his diary from 1993. “I have no recollection,” maintains Schreiber, which drives Wolson back to the mic.
It’s in his diary from two weeks before the elections; why would it be there if it wasn’t from Bear Head? “I was not involved in the daily spending or banking,” he reminds Wolson. Yet “for some unknown reason” he recorded the figures, but he didn’t learn until recently that the company donated more to the Liberals than the Conservatives.
And on that entirely befuddling note, we’re out.