Here’s a chronology of events surrounding Brian Mulroney, Karlheinz Schreiber and the Airbus affair:
1988 – Air Canada buys 34 A-320 medium-range jets from Airbus Industrie, a consortium of French, German and British interests.
1989 – RCMP investigate deal but later put the file on hold.
February 1993 – Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announces he will resign after nine years in the top job.
June 2003 – Mulroney steps down, his popularity among the lowest ever recorded for a departing prime minister; he is succeeded by Kim Campbell.
October 1993 – Jean Chretien’s Liberals swept to power; Campbell’s Progressive Conservative majority reduced to two seats.
1994 – Book by journalist Paul Palango alleges when Airbus deal was made, Mulroney put pressure on Air Canada to pay $5 million in consulting fees to lobbying company owned by Frank Moores, a friend of Mulroney’s and a former Tory premier of Newfoundland; Mulroney and Moores deny allegation.
March 1995 – Chretien receives first briefing notes on Airbus affair, including rumours of kickbacks to unnamed Canadian politician; CBC-TV and German newsmagazine suggest Airbus may have paid secret commissions to Canadians to facilitate the sale, allegedly negotiated by German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.
July 1995 – RCMP revive investigation.
September 1995 – Justice Department and RCMP write Swiss authorities for help, include request to freeze bank accounts allegedly linked to the deal.
October 1995 – Swiss magistrate orders banks to freeze all transactions on accounts; Mulroney lawyers say they’ll sue federal government, RCMP and an official in the Justice Department.
November 1995 – Justice Department maintains it made no accusations against anyone in its Airbus probe and merely followed normal procedures in its investigation; Mulroney lawyers file $50-million libel suit.
December 1995 – Lawyers for both sides begin settlement negotiations.
July 1996 – Federal Court of Canada rules Ottawa violated Schreiber’s Charter protection against unreasonable search and seizure when it used diplomatic channels to ask Swiss authorities to freeze bank accounts; judge says federal authorities needed some form of prior judicial approval.
January 1997 – Out-of-court settlement reached; federal government apologizes and agrees to pay Mulroney almost $2.1 million in legal costs; Mulroney drops suit.
November 1997 – Mulroney lawyers ask RCMP and Justice Department to formally withdraw allegations made against him in correspondence with Swiss officials; Mulroney says “the only way this can be dealt with is a royal commission inquiry into this entire matter;” Schreiber launches $35-million lawsuit against federal government over letter to Swiss authorities.
September 1997 – German tax investigators issue arrest warrant for Schreiber, saying he is wanted for questioning on $24-million in alleged commissions from the 1991 sale of 36 armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia for $370 million; German officials also want to ask him about commissions he allegedly received from the 1988 Airbus sale and the 1986 sale of helicopters to the Canadian Coast Guard.
May 1998 – Supreme Court of Canada overturns Federal Court decision, says federal authorities did not need prior judicial approval before sending letter to Swiss authorities.
August 1999 – Schreiber arrested on German charges and subsequently ordered extradited to Germany.
October 2002 – RCMP lay fraud charges against Eurocopter Canada Ltd. and two of its officials as a result of Airbus investigation, but charges relate to 1986 helicopter purchase by the Canadian Coast Guard, not the Airbus deal.
April 2003 – RCMP announce Airbus investigation complete, no further charges will be laid.
November 2003 – Media reports say that Schreiber had hired Mulroney and paid him $300,000 cash in three payments spread over 18 months, starting in 1993.
May 2004 – Ontario Superior Court orders Schreiber extradited to Germany to face charges of tax evasion, bribery and fraud.
October 2004 – Author William Kaplan writes that Schreiber was summoned to the prime minister’s summer residence at Harrington Lake in June 1993, then the two met again not long afterward in a Montreal hotel where Schreiber handed Mulroney an envelope stuffed with $100,000; book says the rest of the $300,000 Mulroney received from Schreiber came always in cash and always in hotels.
January 2006 – Conservatives under Stephen Harper win minority government; Mulroney subsequently retained as adviser to Harper; Marjory LeBreton, longtime Tory and Mulroney’s intimately trusted gatekeeper and appointments secretary from 1987 to 1993, named government leader in the Senate.
February 2006 – Justice Department considers reopening the Mulroney settlement in light of conflicting accounts about his dealings with Schreiber; subsequently says it “considers the file closed.”
March 2006 – Ontario Court of Appeal turns down Schreiber’s challenge of his extradition to Germany to face tax evasion, bribery and fraud charges.
November 2006 – Mulroney’s former solicitor general, Elmer MacKay, agrees to reimburse federal government 17 cents for sending the RCMP a fax from son Peter MacKay’s office in defence of Schreiber; as a young man, Peter MacKay, now defence minister, worked in Europe for Thyssen AG, a company for whom Schreiber was trying to set up a tank factory in Cape Breton.
January 2007 – Schreiber taken into custody after $1.3-million bail bond expires.
February 2007 – Supreme Court of Canada rejects Schreiber’s bid to appeal extradition; Ontario Court of Appeal rules he can be released from jail while he seeks judicial review of extradition order based on comments made by German judge.
March 2007 – Schreiber sues Mulroney, alleging he “failed to provide any services” for the $300,000 he was paid; Schreiber says he initially hired Mulroney to help establish a Quebec factory to build light-armoured vehicles for Thyssen AG; he says Mulroney failed to advance the project and also claims Mulroney “further defaulted on his promise” to promote Schreiber’s pasta business, Reto Restaurant Systems International; Mulroney lawyer dismisses claims as groundless; Mulroney lawyers do not file a defence, saying case should be heard in Quebec.
June 2007 – Federal Court of Canada rejects Schreiber’s “last gasp” bid for judicial review of extradition order.
July 2007 – Ontario Superior Court of Justice orders Mulroney to pay Schreiber $470,000 – equivalent to the $300,000 Schreiber paid him in 1993, plus interest; Mulroney lawyers ask court to set aside the default judgment.
August 2007 – Decision is set aside; court later orders Schreiber to pay Mulroney’s $64,000 legal bill for contesting the default judgment, saying the actions taken by Schreiber and his lawyer, Richard Anka, to obtain the default judgment were “egregious and wrong” because Anka failed to notify Mulroney’s team he was seeking a default judgment and breached an agreement with Prehogan not to pursue such a judgment.
September 2007 – Mulroney tells a news agency he was the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by his Liberal opponents in the Airbus scandal, but he refuses to offer an explanation for his personal dealings with Schreiber.
October 2007 – Supreme Court denies Schreiber a second leave to appeal extradition; lawyers
pursue other avenues in Federal Court; Globe and Mail reports Mulroney did not pay taxes on the $300,000 in payments in the years he received the money, says the former prime minister filed a voluntary tax disclosure correcting the record some time later; Mulroney declines to say when he paid taxes on the cash; government rejects opposition calls for public inquiry into the affair.
Nov. 2, 2007 – Harper says Mulroney dealings private business, not matters of public interest, says Liberal demand for inquiry an “extraordinarily dangerous” move, suggests such a move would give him a free hand to launch “politically driven” probes into private dealings of Liberal prime ministers.
Nov. 7, 2007 – Briefing notes obtained by The Canadian Press advise Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and his predecessor, Vic Toews, to say that they were never briefed about the Mulroney affair.
Nov. 8, 2007 – Schreiber affidavit filed in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice claims Mulroney was still prime minister when they sealed the $300,000 deal for lobbying services, says he negotiated the terms at the prime minister’s Harrington Lake retreat in Quebec on June 23, 1993 – two days before Mulroney stepped down as prime minister; Mulroney lawyers quote Schreiber as telling a 2004 preliminary hearing in Ottawa that he didn’t meet with Mulroney in “private anywhere when he was prime minister;” affidavit claims Mulroney promised Schreiber he would discuss Airbus with Harper at a coming visit to Harrington Lake.
Nov. 9, 2007 – Harper announces review of Mulroney’s dealings with Schreiber and cuts off government contact with the former prime minister; acknowledges he and family hosted Mulroney in August 2006 but insists Airbus never came up; acknowledges allegations are serious enough to threaten integrity of the Prime Minister’s Office; says independent arbiter will look into the matter and recommend what the government should do.
Nov. 12, 2007 – Harper says he never saw an April letter from Schreiber saying he and Mulroney reached agreement while Mulroney was still prime minister; officials in the Privy Council Office say they did not consider it important enough to share with Harper.
Nov. 13, 2007 – Mulroney issues statement urging government to call a full public inquiry into the Airbus affair; under fire in the Commons, Harper relents, says there will be a formal public inquiry, will independent third party to recommend terms of reference; RCMP launches review of new allegations; Mulroney welcomes the inquiry and says he will be there “with bells on.”
Nov. 14, 2007 – Harper names University of Waterloo president David Johnston to lay out the terms of the inquiry.
Nov. 15, 2007 – Ontario Court of Appeals rejects latest bid to keep Schreiber in the country, leaving many questions about what will happen to the inquiry if he’s sent back to Germany.