Mulroney says accepting Schreiber cash payment 'colossal mistake'

Jack Aubry, CanWest News Service

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2007

OTTAWA - Brian Mulroney has realized he made a "colossal mistake" in taking $300,000 in cash from German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber when the former prime minister left political office more than a decade ago and has regretted it almost ever since, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Luc Lavoie told CanWest News Service that when Mulroney left politics in 1993, he had money pressures since he was "not a rich man" at the head of a young family with certain lifestyle expectations.

Lavoie also said the payments represented a $100,000-a-year retainer for Mulroney's consulting services on a couple of projects - a military vehicle plant in Montreal and a pasta business - which didn't need to be claimed immediately on his income taxes.

The spokesman said Mulroney accepted the first envelope of $100,000 in cash from Schreiber while still an MP for Baie Comeau, Que., about one week before an election was called in Ottawa. But he quickly adds that the question of when Mulroney paid income taxes on the payments isn't anyone's "God damn business."

The Harper government has called a public inquiry into Mulroney's dealings with Schreiber after the businessman filed a sworn affidavit saying he entered into a business agreement with Mulroney while he was still prime minister.

Schreiber also said in his affidavit, filed in a lawsuit against Mulroney seeking to recover the $300,000 in payments plus interest, that he had written a letter for Mulroney to present to Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a family visit to Harrington Lake during the summer of 2006.

Mulroney's spokesman said the former prime minister did not disclose his business arrangement with Schreiber while testifying during discovery for his lawsuit against the Justice Department and RCMP because he was not asked about it by government lawyers.

And he reminds people that the $2.1 million paid to Mulroney to settle his libel lawsuit was to cover his legal and communications costs and did not include damages.

Lavoie, a former journalist, said Mulroney in private makes no secret about the matter that "this is the silliest thing he's ever done." He explained that any savings Mulroney had when he entered politics in 1983 were long gone 10 years later as he left office.

He said the prime minister's salary was nowhere near comparable to the one Mulroney earned as president of a major corporation, Iron Ore, prior to his political career.

"So when he left, he had no money. He was optimistic, he was going back to his old law firm but there is a difference between optimistic and having the revenue," said Lavoie.

"So the man kind of - I wouldn't say 'anguished' - but worried about how the future would unfold."

Lavoie recalled that Mulroney had a young family that were still school age and "expecting the type of lifestyle they had prior to joining politics which is something he had probably promised them."

"So he was leaving politics - he had to go and find a living."

The spokesman said Mulroney joined the law firm Ogilvy Renault in Montreal while also setting up a separate consulting firm to accept contracts and retainers.

Lavoie said in August 1993, Fred Doucet, who was described as "a well-known lobbyist for Schreiber" contacted Mulroney.

"Doucet said Mr. Schreiber would like to have you help him with his international business and stuff. Would you accept to meet him and Mr. Mulroney said 'sure'," said Lavoie. Living in a cottage in the Laurentians while awaiting the completion of renovations on his Montreal home at the time, Mulroney was driven by the RCMP to Chateau Mirabel to meet Schreiber while still an MP in late August, 1993.

Lavoie said Schreiber told Mulroney that during his pitch to the former prime minister, he already had former Ontario attorney general Ian Scott and Trudeau cabinet minister Marc Lalonde on retainer as consultants.

"Then he said 'I would give you $100,000 a year' and then he pulled out an envelope with $100,000 and Mr. Mulroney said 'what is that.' He said 'well, I want to pay you in cash.' So Mr. Mulroney asked a few questions. 'Why would you do this in cash' and all that," said Lavoie.

"And he said, 'well, I'm an international businessman and that's the way I deal. I always deal in cash.' And this is when Mr. Mulroney admits today that he made a colossal mistake. He should not have gone for it."

Ottawa Citizen




Commentary from the Ottawa Men's Centre

What a load Bulrony, Mulroney is a lawyer and will remain one, he repeatedly lied under oath, he betrayed Canada, why? Now he would have us believe he was financially underprivileged, that his family had expectations of a certain standard of living that his meagre income as prime minister would not provide. Now he wants us to feel sorry for him. I'd like to know when he is going to repay Canadians the 2 million dollars that he obtained by fraud.