If meeting Karlheinz Schreiber was the "biggest mistake" of Brian Mulroney's life, as he testified before the Commons ethics committee in 2007, today might feel like a recurring nightmare.
When Canada's 18th prime minister takes the stand at the Oliphant inquiry this morning, that same big mistake will seated in the back row with his trademark Louis Vuitton bag, taking in all the fuss.
Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney haven't been in the same room for about nine years, since they bumped into each other at a Toronto gala held in honour of businessman and philanthropist Peter Munk.
At the time, in May, 2000, Mr. Schreiber had recently been arrested in Toronto at the request of the German government, and the public was unaware that he had handed cash to the former prime minister not long after Mr. Mulroney left office.
Since then, Mr. Schreiber has incrementally released information that is difficult to reconcile with Mr. Mulroney's 1996 explanation, under oath, that the two men's post-PMO contact was limited to a cup of coffee "once or twice."
Mr. Mulroney's initial examination will be by his lawyer, Guy Pratte, but when commission counsel Richard Wolson and Mr. Schreiber's lawyer Richard Auger question him, he may be required to confront these questions:
- Why did you accept cash? Why didn't you ask for a cheque?
- You have said that, after accepting the three cash payments, you put the money in a safe in your house, as well as in a safety deposit box at a New York bank. Why didn't you put the cash in an interest-bearing account? How did you ultimately spend the cash?
- Why did you wait six years to declare the income to the Canada Revenue Agency? What did you tell the agency about the source of the money when you filed your voluntary tax disclosure?
The Thyssen Job
- You say Mr. Schreiber hired you to promote Thyssen armoured vehicles to Chinese, French and Russian leaders. Why is your friend and former chief of staff Fred Doucet the only person who has appeared at the inquiry who has any knowledge of this assignment?
- Why weren't any of Mr. Schreiber's employees, or his other lobbyists on the file, aware of your assignment?
- Why does Thyssen, the company that produces the vehicles you say you were paid to promote, say that it has no record of you ever working for the company? Why has a former Thyssen executive said it is "nonsense" that the company ever sought to sell its vehicles to China or Russia?
- You said, under oath, in an examination for discovery proceeding in 1996, that you didn't know Airbus chairman Franz Josef Strauss, "nor did I know any of his family." Did you not meet with Mr. Strauss's son, Max, along with Mr. Schreiber, when you were leader of the opposition?
- In that same proceeding, you testified that you "killed" a proposed armoured vehicle factory that Mr. Schreiber was pushing on your government. How could you have killed it if you later asked Privy Council Clerk Paul Tellier to meet with Mr. Schreiber about getting it done?
'The matter of the Birds'
- Why did your aide, Mr. Doucet, send a series of letters to Mr. Schreiber about the delivery of Airbus planes - or "Birds" as he calls them in one letter - to Air Canada? Is it just a coincidence that one of these letters was sent on the same day that Mr. Doucet arranged for you to meet Mr. Schreiber at an airport hotel and accept at least $75,000 from Mr. Schreiber?