Monday, November 19, 2007

Dion Demands Inquiry Cover Harper's Drive to Deport Schreiber

Monday, November 19, 2007
Dion presses to broaden inquiry into Mulroney-Schreiber affair
OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says any public inquiry into Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber will also have to look at Stephen Harper if the probe is to have any credibility.
In a letter to David Johnston, the academic appointed to conduct a preliminary review the affair, Dion expresses concern that Harper's Conservative government is trying to limit the scope of the investigation - and especially to avoid any embarrassing questions about the present prime minister.

The primary mandate given to Johnston, Dion noted in the letter made public Sunday, is to study the ever-growing allegations about past financial dealings between Mulroney and Schreiber.
maintains, however, that it is "equally as important for you to examine how the current government has handled this particular file."

The Liberals have been demanding an explanation of what happened to a package of letters sent by Schreiber to Harper earlier this year, in which the German-Canadian businessman outlined his contacts with Mulroney.

Harper says he never saw the letters. Bureaucrats in the Privy Council Office say that's because they never passed them on to him, but Dion has never accepted that claim and insists it deserves further investigation.
He also urged Johnston to look into any past conversations or correspondence Harper may have had with Mulroney on the matter.
The Liberal leader wants to know, as well, whether there was political pressure on the Justice Department to drop a review last year that could have led to reconsideration of a $2.1-million libel settlement with Mulroney in light of new evidence.

Dion also wants an answer on whether political considerations are again at play in a decision - yet to be made by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson - about whether to extradite Schreiber to Germany on fraud and tax evasion charges or hold off until he can testify on his relations with Mulroney.
Removing a key witness from the country before a full inquiry can be held would render the investigation "effectively meaningless," Dion told Johnston.

He concluded that "each of these issues could cause the Canadian people to lose faith in the integrity and impartiality of the current government, as it relates to the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, if it is not the subject of strong, independent scrutiny."
Johnston, a law professor and president of the University of Waterloo, has not been asked to provide any final answers in the tortuous affair. Rather, he is to review the issues and draft terms of reference for the more detailed public inquiry to follow.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said Sunday he doesn't object to Johnston examining the issues raised by Dion, but he maintained the Liberal leader didn't go far enough.
Whoever conducts the full-scale inquiry should have terms of reference broad enough to follow wherever the evidence leads with no restrictions, Layton said in an interview.
That could include the actions of past Liberal governments as well as Tory ones, he said, suggesting that Dion's letter is "more like a finger-pointing exercise than a genuine effort to try and be co-operative and collaborative."
Layton also says that Johnston, although he was appointed by Harper, should report to all party leaders when he sets out his ground rules for a more detailed inquiry. "That way he would be acting at the behest of Parliament as a whole, not just on behalf of the prime minister."
Mulroney was named by the RCMP in a 1995 letter to Swiss banking authorities as a possible participant in a kickback scheme with Schreiber and others in the sale of Airbus jets to Air Canada.
The former prime minister sued for libel when the letter became public and won a public apology along with the $2.1-million settlement from Jean Chretien's Liberal government. He has since accused the Liberals of a political vendetta against him - even though he signed a statement, at the time of the settlement, acknowledging there was no political motivation in the police investigation.
Since then, it has been disclosed that Mulroney received $300,000 from Schreiber in a series of payments delivered after he stepped down as prime minister. Schreiber now claims the deal was finalized before Mulroney left office.
Mulroney has denied any wrongdoing but has never offered a detailed public explanation of the $300,000 in payments. Aides have said the money related to private business dealings that had nothing to do with the Airbus transaction.
The Canadian Press, 2007

...Indeed I think we all would like to know why the deportation of Mr. Schreiber has suddenly become so important to a Canadian government that was more than willing to dish out $2.1 million of taxpayer money for even questioning Mr. Mulroney's integrity. An integrity which would seem at best, questionable.


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