How’d he do that?

Posted on November 30, 2007
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            Former Canadian prime minister, Brian Mulroney, is under investigation regarding cash payments he took from Karlheinz Schreiber.

            Schreiber was a deal greaser for Airbus at the time Air Canada made a significant fleet commitment and Mulroney was in office.

            Mulroney says he got $300,000 and was supposed to do something to help a Schreiber client develop a pasta business.

            Brian Mulroney is a lawyer and a former prime minister and a graduate of St. Thomas high school here in Miramichi.

            Perhaps the investigation will tell us more about what happened, what was supposed to happen and why.

            In the meantime, no one contests the fact that, on three separate occasions, Brian Mulroney accepted envelopes containing $100,000 in cash from Schreiber. One of these transfers took place in the U.S.

            What I am having trouble understanding is how a lawyer and federal politician could be so stupid as to accept $100,000 in cash, not once but three times.

            If I could understand how someone could be that stupid, which I cannot, I am faced still with the puzzle of what one does with $100,000 in cash. It may not have been the law at the time, as it is now, that if you turn up at a bank with more than $10,000 in cash, the bank has to inform the police. Even so, imagine the look on the teller’s face. Imagine the look on the depositor’s face as he tries to look as though he isn’t doing anything unusual.

            Imagine each party’s face when it happens a second time.

            Do you whistle a little tune, as you fill out the deposit slip. What tune is it?

            Now, let’s imagine the faces and elbows of the rest of the people in the cattle chute at the bank as the teller counts out $100,000 to verify the deposit slip.

            If I could understand how one slides that much cash into one’s account once and again and again, I have yet another move to ponder.

            Schreiber gave Mulroney one of the payments in the U.S.

            So, there you are at Canada customs and immigration with $100,000 in cash on your person. Surely, being a lawyer and a former prime minister, you have properly filled out your declaration which includes the fact that you are bringing more than $10,000 in cash into the country.

            Do buzzers, bells and lights go off in the customs shed? Do you get sent to a special line? Does someone snap on a latex glove?

            I shiver when I’m lined up at customs with a couple of hundred bucks worth of souvenirs and gifts. It wouldn’t matter what tune you whistle when you’re bringing $100,000 cash into the country, my lips would be too dry to perform.

            There is one thing Brian Mulroney would have going for him in such situations. His natural voice has such a strong tone of fake sincerity that it is unlikely it could sound much phonier in a face-to-face with a border guard.

            I voted for his representative once and believe his free trade and GST legislation have been important, positive, milestones for our country.

            Still, I never believed he meant what he was saying.

            Oddly enough, the one thing I might understand is why he didn’t declare the payments as income right away. I don’t know how lawyers usually deal with retainers as these payments have been called. I do know that many businesses don’t pay tax on what they call unearned income.

            In the newspaper business, for example, when you pay for a subscription, the newspaper does not pay tax on all of that money right away.    It calls some of it unearned income because it has not yet incurred the expenses that go with producing and delivering each of the papers you have bought.

            Mulroney may have decided the payments were an advance, in fact balanced off by a debt he owed to perform a service he had not yet done.

            That, of course, begs the question as to what service he did eventually perform that led him to move it from the advanced column to the completed column and declare it as earned income.

            I wonder if he sent the Canadian Revenue Agency an envelope of cash?

            Normally people pay lawyers retainers to reserve their services just in case they need them. Insurance companies pay top litigation lawyers retainers so you cannot hire that top notch lawyer to represent you against the insurance company. It is a form of protection money for the legal version of the gunslinger or mafia don.

            However, in this case, I doubt Schreiber was retaining Mulroney against the possibility he might pimp for a rival pasta maker.

            I think he expected a specific service to be performed. It cannot have been for a service that had been performed. If it were, Mulroney would have declared the income right away, right? Besides, there isn’t much of anything Mulroney could legally do for Schreiber while he was Prime Minister was there?

            If Mulroney is chlorine clean, Canadian taxpayers are still going to pay millions of dollars for an investigation.

            What are the chances we can get our money back from him on the grounds that he was incredibly stupid?

            Why not?




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