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Charge Mulroney

If the former PM lied, he owes us $2.1 million.

By Rafe Mair 3 Dec 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Rafe Mair writes a Monday column for The Tyee. Read previous columns by Rafe Mair. To register for free to hear Rafe Live, Mair's new webcast, visit www.rafelive.com.

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Claims under oath don't make sense.

"O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!" --Sir Walter Scott

Sometimes this "tangled web" becomes perjury.

Regardless of what happens now, Brian Mulroney's credibility and reputation is shattered. Given the very best spin available, Mulroney's dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber are tawdry. Ex-prime ministers can't be secretly getting $300,000 in cash in grocery bags from a convicted felon, wanted for serious criminal charges in Germany, and walk away looking clean. (Please note that the three cash payments of $100,000 per shopping bag were made in 1993 and 1994 -- the importance of those dates in a bit.)

The events we're talking about in this mess go back about 15 years. Much of the reason they didn't surface earlier is due to the somnolence of the so-called national press. Anybody familiar with the Ottawa scene will tell you that after Mulroney quit there was an unpleasant odour in the political air. While this scarcely makes anything true, there were rumblings that Mulroney seemed more prosperous out of office than in. That and a toonie gets you a cup of coffee and I only raise it to point out that there were rumours which should have prompted investigation by good journalists. No Canadian journalist except Stevie Cameron did investigate and she was shamefully deprived of her credibility by the Globe and Mail's allegation that she was a paid RCMP informant.

In the fall of 2003, Edward Greenspon, the editor of the Globe and Mail, printed, in sketchy terms, the story of the $300,000. Mulroney claimed it was for helping Schreiber build a pasta business. This, you'll remember, was denied by Schreiber who said the only information he'd got from Mulroney about pizza was a menu from Mulroney's favourite pizzeria. Schreiber claimed that the money was to help old friend Mulroney who needed the money. (See CBC's Fifth Estate in February of 2006.) As this mess moved with the persistence and pace of a glacier, Schreiber suddenly remembered that it was a pizza deal all along.

On March 24, 2007, Schreiber filed suit in the Ontario Superior Court against Brian Mulroney for services not rendered and for the first time we heard the story that it was not a pizza deal after all but for help getting a light armoured car plant in Nova Scotia for one of Schrieber's clients. Last Thursday Schreiber added the dollop that the amount to be paid Mulroney was $500,000 and that it ended at $300,000 because Mulroney didn't get the job done.

Was Brian lyin'?

Out of this mess comes a simple question. Did Mulroney commit perjury?

You will remember Mulroney's lawsuit arose after that the RCMP wanted to check Swiss banks to see if he might have an account associated with the Airbus scandal in which Karlheinz Schreiber was up to his neck. Mulroney sued the RCMP for libel over the letter they sent to Swiss banks giving their reasons for suspecting Mulroney. They suspected him, of course, because they believed that he and Schreiber were close.

During the course of Mulroney's lawsuit against the RCMP he was, under oath, examined for discovery. Here is what Mulroney said on April 17, 1996 (again remember the date):

Q. "Did you maintain contact with Mr. Schreiber after you ceased being Prime Minister?"

Mulroney replied, "Well, from time to time, not very often. When he was going through Montreal, he would give me a call. We would have a cup of coffee, I think, once or twice." Mulroney elaborated, "when he's on his way to Montreal, he called me and asked me and I say perhaps once or twice, if I could come to a cup . . . have a cup of coffee, with him at a hotel. I think I had one in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel with him. I had one in the coffee bar at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel."

This evidence would now appear to be untrue and it had a profound effect. Given the true relationship between Mulroney and Schreiber, no judge would have denied the right, indeed obligation, of the RCMP to canvas Swiss banks for Mulroney accounts.

Dates are fishy

Ignore, for the moment, what the $300,000 was for and take a look at the timelines.

Everyone agrees the three lots of $100,000 in cash were paid to Mulroney by Schreiber in 1993 and 1994, yet under oath on April 17, 1996, Mulroney denied having anything but a casual relationship, after he left office, with Karlheinz Schreiber.

Had Mulroney said that he indeed was very close to Schreiber and in fact had received $300,000 in cash from him in the past couple of years, his case would have been finished and he wouldn't have received a settlement of $2.1 million of your money and mine.

Mulroney's sworn testimony is prima facie evidence -- and strong prima facie evidence -- of perjury, which is a serious crime. Courts cannot make proper decisions if witnesses aren't truthful. Sometimes untruthfulness is accidental, due to forgetfulness or that sort of thing. But can anyone believe that Mr. Mulroney on April 17, 1996, had forgotten that he'd received $300,000 two years before? Three-hundred thousand dollars in three lumps of cash in bags? Three-hundred thousand dollars which came to him at a time when, so he said, he was virtually broke and needed money badly for his wife and kids?

He had no trouble remembering that $300,000 in the fall of 2003 when he acknowledged the fact to Globe and Mail editor Edward Greenspon, who then told the story in his weekend article. He has had no trouble since in coming up with explanations such as it was for a pizza company or, perhaps, just out of the goodness of Mr. Schreiber's heart.

Innocent until proven otherwise

Where the $300,000 in cash came from, how Mr. Mulroney disposed of it, whether it was for pizza, armoured cars or a little gesture of friendship is now of secondary importance. What is important is that, on the face of it, Mr. Mulroney did not tell the truth under oath and took $2.1 million from Canadian taxpayers as a result.

There is a very strong prima facie case that Mr. Mulroney perjured himself, from which charges must surely flow. That's not to say he's guilty -- he is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

What it is to say is that the facts clearly indicate that this serious issue must be tried and that requires that the Attorney-General of Ontario to lay charges of perjury against the Right Honourable Martin Brian Mulroney, former prime minister of Canada.

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