Karlheinz Schreiber goes on trial in Germany
The Associated Press
Published Monday, January 18, 2010 8:24AM EST
AUGSBURG, Germany - A German former arms-industry lobbyist went on trial Monday on charges of tax evasion for his role in a financing scandal dating back to the era of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Prosecutors accuse Karlheinz Schreiber of failing to declare millions from kickbacks he received for the sale of helicopters to Canada's coast guard, Airbus planes to Thailand and Canada and tanks to Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.
Schreiber, 75, also faces charges of breach of trust and accessory to fraud.
Although no formal pleas are entered in the German system, Schreiber's lawyer, Jan Olaf Leisner, told the court his client rejects all charges against him, insisting that the political context of the deals has not been taken into consideration.
"The tone was set by high-ranking politicians," Leisner said.
Allegations that Schreiber gave a cash donation to the former treasurer of Kohl's Christian Democrats, Walther Leisler Kiep, in 1991 triggered a scandal that deepened with Kohl's 1999 admission that he had personally accepted off-the-book - and therefore illegal - donations from supporters. Kohl was Germany's chancellor from 1982 to 1998.
Schreiber, a Canadian-German, was arrested in Canada in 1999 under a German warrant seeking his extradition and was released on bail from a Canadian jail in late 2007.
He was sent to Germany in August after losing a 10-year battle to fight extradition. If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
While in Canada, Schreiber also came under fire for controversial financial dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
Mulroney, who served from 1984 to 1993, has denied any wrongdoing in his dealings with Schreiber, who claims the Canadian leader agreed to take money from him while still in office.