Who do we think we are, putting, for more than eight years into limbo, the German judicial process that seeks to prosecute allegations of bribery and corruption involving the administration of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl? Schreiber faces no charges in Canada and neither does Mulroney. The only serious matter these two face in this country, is nebulous speculation and partisan interest from the Liberal Party and the Fifth Estate. Given that Schreiber charmed, offered a hypothetical bribe to a Bloc committee member yesterday, the former arms dealer seems not to show any regard for the serious charges that he faces in Germany.
Supplementary: And since when did the Liberals start favouring the idea of Parliamentary supremacy over that of the courts?
Today, I was able to make the House of Commons committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics at Parliament. Here are my notes about what happened.
– Schreiber arrived in committee escorted by the RCMP. During the closing minutes of the committee he was flanked by four suited ear-pieced Mounties. Outside, on Parliament, police cruisers were on standby. Schreiber insisted that he be allowed to appear in committee in plain clothes instead of an orange prison, the police presence quickly reminded people about the serious allegations surrounding Schreiber.
– The last item during committee was a debate concerning whether or not Schreiber would be held in an Ottawa detention centre or in his private estate under house arrest in Ottawa. One Liberal committee member expressed that he wanted to ensure Mr. Schreiber got a good night sleep so that he’s able to testify. Prior to the committee, Schreiber was escorted to Parliament Hill by police in handcuffs.
– Main sticking point of the committee is Schreiber’s “inability” to testify because he hasn’t had access to his notes and that the German-Canadian businessman wouldn’t be able to recall specific details. One Conservative member complained that Schreiber was able to write an 80+ page affidavit and that Schreiber has had about 8 years to recall the details of his dealings with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
– At first, Schreiber read from a hastily scribbled note that he struggled to read that he would not testify until given access to his notes which are located in Ottawa, Toronto and Switzerland. The last locale elicit laughter from those in attendance as it almost seemed like wishful thinking that Schreiber would be able to travel outside of Canadian (or German) jurisdiction to access his notes.
– Later, after being told to defer on answers from which he would need his notes, Schreiber eventually answered in the definitive to earlier questions on which he was unclear. This inconsistency seemed to wash over those in attendance as if they came to expect dodging from this star witness.
– I counted five CBC/SRC journalists in attendance and four of them were front-row-centre. The involvement of the state-funded broadcaster may come under more intense scrutiny when Dr. Johnston delivers his terms of reference. If Mulroney, who himself has called for a full inquiry, gets his way, the CBC – particularly the Fifth Estate – will be called before the inquiry to answer for what he has termed a vindicate character assassination campaign.
– Headlines, if any, will include the new information that Schreiber arranged $500,000 for Mulroney’s services, however, he only paid $300,000 because he was unsatisfied with Mulroney’s work.
– Every reporter that I’ve spoken to about this have a feeling that Harper’s office is not directly tied to the Mulroney-Schreiber affair and of course, implying such a connection is the strategy of the Liberal party. One reporter remarked that the meeting was the biggest press circus that he’s ever seen for a committee witness.
– With respect to the delaying tactics of Schreiber, both he and the Liberals can easily serve each other’s agenda. Schreiber seeks to delay extradition to Germany to face bribery charges, while the Liberals don’t mind stretching the process out over weeks and even months. The Liberal chair was quite accommodating to Schreiber’s dilemma of not being prepared to testify. Schreiber will continue to appear before committee meting out small portions of his story until the committee is satisfied with his testimony. Conservatives are receptive to full testimony by Schreiber, but want the man to get on with it and wrap up as soon as possible. The Liberals aim to tar Mulroney and the Conservative Party with the same brush as they have inquired into past donations to the PC Party by Schreiber. Elizabeth Thompson reports this morning that the Liberals were also recipients collecting $10,000 in donations from the former arms dealer. The Conservatives made an effect to insulate their party from Schreiber as they point out that he has not donated to the Conservative Party of Canada.
Last night on CBC’s Fifth Estate, reporters investigated the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation over insider lottery wins by clerks. From the CBC’s website:
LUCK OR LARCENY?
Wednesday March 14 at 9pm & midnight on CBC-TV
In our ongoing investigation into the high incidence of insider lottery wins by retailers, the fifth estate now has obtained new evidence, in leaked documents, that show the Bob Edmonds case was far from an isolated story.
At the same time the OLG was publicly insisting that the case of the 83-year-old Coboconk, Ontario resident who had been swindled of his prize winning ticket was an anomaly, it was investigating other retailer wins and making payouts, in the millions of dollars.
CBC claims that “OLG was publicly insisting that the case… was an anomaly”.
In fact, in a news article on its website today, CBC writes:
Contrary to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.’s claims, the case of an elderly Ontario man whose $250,000 lottery ticket was stolen by a retail clerk might not have been an isolated one, the CBC has learned.
A new Fifth Estate investigation reveals that ticket retailers might have stolen winning lottery tickets before — and that the OLG might have known about it and paid out millions anyway.
The Fifth Estate obtained a leaked OLG document showing the organization has investigated similar cases of suspected insider fraud since as early as 2003.
In that year alone, the OLG was looking into six suspicious lottery claims from lottery ticket clerks whose stories did not add up. One of those six cases involved 82-year-old Bob Edmonds, the Coboconk, Ont., resident who sued the OLG, alleging his $250,000 ticket was fraudulently claimed at a local corner store.
These paragraphs lead the news story and provide the foundation of the story that the CBC highlighted in the Fifth Estate last night. The thesis of the Fifth Estate is that the OLG Corporation to this day insists that the Edmonds insider win case was an anomaly or “an isolated one”. Further the implication that an inside OLG document was “leaked” (ie. was secret) and that the OLG was somehow covering up previous investigations doesn’t quite seem right on CBC’s part.
After an investigation by the CBC’s The Fifth Estate alleged that a disproportionate number of clerks and retailers win large lotteries in Ontario, the province’s gaming corporation has defended its security practices.
“It is critical to note that when a retailer/clerk wins a major prize, [Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation] conducts an investigation 100 per cent of the time,” said a statement released Wednesday.
“Each case is thoroughly investigated by our internal staff. If OLG believes there is a serious concern with a lottery prize claim, the police are contacted.”
Police have been contacted four times in the past five years, said the corporation, adding that two of those instances were for information purposes.
Why was the CBC implying in yesterday’s story (and in last night’s Fifth Estate) that the OLG was publicly claiming the Edmond’s case as an isolated incident while in secret (learned from a leaked memo) calling in numerous police investigations on insider wins by clerks?
It seems that the OLG was quite upfront and public about previous investigations. Police investigations aren’t exactly hush-hush.
“We sell 225 million scratch tickets every year. Since 1999, we’ve had nine confirmed reports of potential tampering of tickets by retailers and about half of those cases were referred to the police. In at least one case, a charge was laid.”
With this additional context, it doesn’t appear that the OLG has been covering up previous investigations. When one looks at previous news reports (via CBC and the National Post), we learn that the OLG has been public in acknowledging its calls for and use of police investigations regarding insider wins and ticket fraud.