Brian Mulroney testifies before Canadian House of Commons

Friday, December 14, 2007

Brian Mulroney in an interview in 2007.
Image: Joshua Sherurcij.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney testified Thursday before an ethics committee in the Canadian House of Commons about the Airbus affair, a case involving alleged bribery at the highest levels of government to secure Airbus sales of aircraft to Air Canada.

In his testimony, Mulroney said that he should not have associated with German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber nor should have he accepted bundles of cash — which he placed in safe deposit boxes in two different countries.

Nonetheless, Mulroney denied accepting kickbacks. He admitted taking about CAD225,000 in cash from Schreiber in 1993 and 1994, which was after his departure from politics. He also said that the money involved promoting Schreiber's private business dealings.

To the committee Muroney said: "When I look back on it today, I realize I made a serious error of judgment in receiving a payment in cash for this assignment even though it was decidedly not illegal to do so. That mistake in judgment was mine alone. I apologize and I accept full responsibility for it. ... I should have declined the offer. I should have insisted that payment be in a more transparent or more accountable manner. By not doing so I inadvertently created an impression of impropriety on the high office I was privileged to hold."

"Do you realize, Mr. Mulroney, that the way in which you acted in this matter did not make it appear that it were a legitimate transaction," said MP Serge Ménard of Bloc Québécois.

Two days earlier, Schreiber testified before the same committee, alleging that Mulroney agreed to accept CAD300,000 to promote a light armored vehicle factory and benefited from the purchase of 34 Airbus aircraft by Air Canada.

"I never received a cent from anyone for services rendered to anyone in connection with the purchase by Air Canada from Airbus of 34 aircraft," Mulroney said, refuting Schreiber.

Mulroney also attacked Schreiber's credibility, pointing out that the German could be extradited to his home country where he faces charges. "He succeeded. He got what he wanted ... he’s sitting in his mansion over in Rockcliffe," Mulroney said. "I think he seriously misled every member of this House ... with this false affidavit."

The committee's investigation will resume in late January, when it is expected to call dozens of witnesses.


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