Friday, May 22, 2009

Former diplomat casts doubt on Mulroney testimony

One hardly needs a diplomat to cast doubt on Mulroney's testimony. From the get go Mulroney's explanations of why he received the bulging envelopes of cash from Schreiber sound like a huge Irish spin machine made up by an aging leprechaun to guard his pot of gold. Now it seems Mulroney has managed to extract even more money from those of us watching the show from the sidelines. We are paying his legal bills instead of getting money back from the other legal sideshow that garnered Mulroney millions because he did not reveal relevant material about his relationship to Schreiber.

Former diplomat casts doubt on Mulroney's testimony - Canada - Former diplomat casts doubt on Mulroney's testimony

May 21, 2009 Richard J. BrennanOttawa Bureau
OTTAWA – A former Canadian ambassador to China today cast doubt on Brian Mulroney's claim he raised the issue of UN peacekeeping armoured vehicles with Chinese officials during a visit there in 1993.
Fred Bild told an inquiry probing business dealings between Mulroney and former arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber that if the former prime minister had talked about something as sensitive as military matters in any way Bild would have "most likely" heard back from the Chinese.
"Even if it were just at a tentative level ... it would have come back (to him) because they (the Chinese) would have wanted more information," Bild said, especially given that a former prime minister was making the pitch.
Bild told inquiry commissioner Justice Jeffrey Oliphant he heard "nothing whatever" about Mulroney's overtures and added "I am convinced" he would have gotten wind of it.
Mulroney has offered that trip in October 1993 as an example where he represented Karlheinz Schreiber's business interests in German-designed light armoured vehicles, for which Mulroney was paid $225,000 in cash.
Mulroney testified earlier that given he received no directions from Schreiber on promoting the sale of vehicles made by Thyssen AG of Germany internationally, he came up with his own "concept" to discuss with the five members of the United Nations security council, which includes China, the idea of the UN buying these vehicles.
Besides, China, Mulroney said he raised the matter with France, Russia and the United States. Schreiber says he paid Mulroney $300,000 to lobby on behalf of a project to have German-designed military vehicles built in Canada and insists Mulroney did nothing for the money.
Bild testified that back in 1993 China's bilateral relations were still in their infancy, especially on military co-operation.
He said for one thing a former prime minister with Mulroney's experience should have consulted Canada's Foreign Affairs department and the Canadian Embassy in China before raising something as sensitive as the export of a military vehicle.
Bild said he would have well remembered if Mulroney had mentioned anything about approaching the Chinese government on military vehicles "because all kind of lights would have gone off at the embassy ... it's something none of us would have forgotten."
Bild said the subject would have created a precedence in Canada's relations with China "and therefore it would have made waves and we would have heard about it."
"There is no legal requirement to clear it with us, but it would have caused immense surprise because that topic, no matter how you approach it ... is essentially a government to government topic, the government is going to have to get involved no matter how private it is."
He explained that back then "China was still persona non grata on the level of anything to do with military or military equipment. We did not talk to them about it."
The inquiry also heard the tax provision that allowed Mulroney to be taxed on just half the $225,000 he received from Schreiber was closed last year.
Canada Revenue Agency official Christiane Sauvé said it was simply a matter of routine back in 2000 when Mulroney voluntarily declared the cash payments to be given a 50 per cent reduction in taxable income.
"It allows them to avoid all the penalties that could apply against an income as well as criminal suits that could form," she said in explaining the advantage of taxpayers voluntarily coming forward.
Sauvé said the agency was happy to be getting money it may not have learned about.
She said the agency almost always granted a discount of 50 per cent when was it was impossible to determine the nature or the source of the money.
"We no longer have that 50 per cent policy," Sauvé said.
Yesterday, it was discovered that Mulroney, after six days of testimony, left taxpayers on the hook for $2 million in legal fees.
The $2 million bill, which comes on top of the estimated $14 million cost to taxpayers of the Oliphant inquiry, falls under a federal government policy that provides for the payment of former office holders' legal costs.
It had been assumed that Mulroney was paying his own lawyers' fees because he did not apply to Oliphant for financial assistance.

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