OTTAWA (REUTERS ) — An arms dealer wanted on fraud charges in Germany Thursday sought to draw the government into a political storm over cash payments to a former prime minister, saying a request to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to help him avoid extradition was “well received.”
German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber told a parliamentary committee that former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had raised his case with Harper last year “and the message was very well received.”
Both Harper and Mulroney have denied even discussing Schreiber’s case. But a series of allegations by Schreiber have proved a thorn in their sides. Schreiber made some of the allegations during a prolonged legal fight to avoid extradition.
“It was a shock for me when Prime Minister Harper said publicly on television Mr. Mulroney never spoke with him about me or my letter,” said Schreiber, who was delivered from jail in handcuffs to testify to the committee.
It was perhaps the most anticipated committee appearance on Parliament Hill in years, because of what Schreiber might say about Mulroney or other politicians.
Schreiber, whose donations also helped topple former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, is awaiting extradition to Germany to faces charges of fraud, bribery, tax evasion, corruptly accepting secret commissions and forging documents.
Schreiber paid Mulroney C$300,000 (now worth $300,000) in cash in three meetings after Mulroney stepped down as prime minister in 1993, and said Mulroney had promised to help promote a project to build German light-armored vehicles in Canada.
Schreiber said Thursday that he had been ready to pay C$500,000, but Mulroney had not performed.
Mulroney and Harper were at that time in different right-wing political parties, but the two have since become friends, with Mulroney acting as an informal mentor to Harper.
Schreiber had initially said he would not testify to the committee, but he later answered selective questions.
He said he had sealed his business deal with Mulroney two days before Mulroney ceased being prime minister. Mulroney denies that and denies any wrongdoing.