It was obvious from yesterday's testimony before the Oliphant Commission, as from his appearances last year before a parliamentary committee, that Brian Mulroney recognizes the mistake he made in getting mixed up with the German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber. What remains a mystery is why it took him so long to reach this conclusion.
The former prime minister suggests there are “two different” versions of Mr. Schreiber – “the Mr. Schreiber I had known and the man we see here today.” But Mr. Mulroney should not have needed Mr. Schreiber to become a “fugitive from German justice,” as he described him yesterday, in order to know that it was highly inappropriate to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash payments from him shortly after ceasing to be the prime minister of Canada.
Mr. Schreiber was a murky figure in Ottawa while Mr. Mulroney was in office, associating with people close to Mr. Mulroney and throwing around money on behalf of the clients for whom he was lobbying. Mr. Mulroney, no political neophyte, was surely aware of who and what he was. He should have known better than to meet with Mr. Schreiber – let alone to enter into some manner of secretive business relationship with him.
That Mr. Mulroney handled the payments from Mr. Schreiber so bizarrely, including storing them in a safety deposit box, suggests that at some level he was always uncomfortable with the arrangement. In his continuing testimony this week, it is to be hoped that Mr. Mulroney will shed some overdue light on why he entered into it anyway.