Schreiber's allegations trump German case: Dion
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, November 24, 2007 8:24PM EST
OTTAWA - Although the Germans have waited for nine years to get their hands on Karlheinz Schreiber, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says the businessman's Canadian corruption allegations are more important.
He's calling again on the Conservative government to suspend the extradition order against Schreiber until he's had a chance to testify to both a House of Commons committee and a public inquiry.
"I understand our German friends have a lot of questions to ask him about very serious charges, but I think we need to first deal with Canadian issues," Dion said Saturday in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"After we can deal with German issues."
Dion warned that if Schreiber is sent to Germany, there's no guarantee that he'll be able to answer Canadian queries, even if he wanted to. The businessman has already said he won't co-operate with Canadian officials if he's kicked out of the country.
Schreiber faces bribery, fraud and tax-evasion charges in Germany and has been linked to a political scandal in that country.
The government in Berlin first asked for his extradition in 1999 as investigators looked into allegation a high-ranking official in former chancellor Helmut Kohl's government accepted 1 million marks from Schreiber in another business deal.
He claims to have handed over $300,000 to Brian Mulroney in a business transaction that was arranged just as the former prime minister was about to leave office in 1993.
Although he never denied taking the money, Mulroney has insised the arrangement was made after he left office and was a private business matter.
A spokesman for the former prime minister said this week that the first of three $100,000 payments was given while Mulroney was still a Quebec MP.
The Conservative government has so far refused to postpone Schreiber's extradition, which could happen next Saturday. He is being held in a Toronto-area detention facility.
Dion said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tried to make it look like there's been a public break with Mulroney, by ordering the inquiry and telling senior members of the government not to talk to the former prime minister.
However by not arranging for Schreiber to stay, Dion said, the government is quietly trying to sabotage the investigation.
"Mr. Harper may again be trying to protect Mr. Mulroney," he said.
The Commons ethics committee says it will call Schreiber as a witness, but in a press release late Friday, the man at the centre of the political storm said the government has made no provision for bail and there has been no indication how he would get to Ottawa.
Although the committee can compel a witness to testify, it has no control over whether the individual gets bail.
In his statement, Schreiber suggested the Conservative government was in a hurry to bundle him out of the country.
"There is no rush," he wrote. "I welcome the opportunity to speak before the public inquiry and the Commons ethics committee."