It depends on what the meaning of the words "bank account" is

Mulroney’s 1996 testimony (transcripts: day one and day two) is hugely entertaining in other ways, not least in light of his belated admissions before the Commons ethics committee.

The 1996 Mulroney, for example, was greatly indignant at the suggestion that he had a Swiss bank account. Over and over he repeated:

I don’t have a bank account in Switzerland. I don’t have a bank account in any foreign country in the world. I never have.

After his ethics committee appearance, that absolute, unequivocal denial should carry this asterisk: *Except for a safety deposit box in New York City, where I kept $75,000 in cash.

The 1996 Mulroney was equally outraged that the RCMP, before approaching the Swiss authorities, had not first interviewed him. Had they done so, he said, he would have given them his full cooperation, in a way that would have put their concerns to rest. Over and over, he repeated: he would have answered all their questions, opened his books, given them everything they needed.

Would you like to examine my documents? Would you like to examine my bank accounts?

I had to file my income tax returns like everybody else. He could have had my income tax returns.

Anything that you need from me, from bank accounts to … to tax returns to whatever, I will give everything I have.

At the time, Mulroney would have known, though his listeners did not, not only that he had been paid a large sum of cash by Karlheinz Schreiber, but that neither his bank accounts nor his tax returns showed it. By his own admission, he had never deposited the money in any account (or not the kind that keeps records — see above), nor did he report the money on his taxes until 1999.

The letter of request was to gain access to Schreiber’s Swiss bank accounts. The money Mulroney was paid was drawn from one of those accounts. Had the police accepted Mulroney’s offer of “cooperation,” they would have known nothing of this.

All this, on top of his well-known — and spectacular — evasions with regard to his relationship with Schreiber. “We would have a cup of coffee, I think, once or twice… I think I had one in the Queen Elizabeth hotel with him… I had never had any dealings with him.”

What is perhaps less well known is this exchange, at the very end of the first day, in which Mulroney describes that “cup of coffee” at the Queen Elizabeth.

Q. But the.., so I… perhaps I misunderstood. When you talked about having coffee with Mr. Schreiber at the Queen Elizabeth, it was in the period subsequent to November nineteen ninety-five (1995)?

A. No. No, it was after I left office in nineteen ninety-three (1993), and that’s when he told me, as I indicated to you, that, that he was dismayed that my Government had not allowed him to proceed with his desire to build this Thyssen Project. And that’s when he told me that he had hired Marc Lalonde to represent him, because he figured that Mr. Lalonde could prevail upon Mr. Chrétien and the Government to have this done in the East end of Montreal. Which, by the way, had they been able to do it, I… I… I thought it was a good project, and so I wouldn’t have been critical of anything.

He told me he hired Mr. Lalonde to do that, he told me he was contemplating legal action against my Government, that he had hired a prominent law firm in Ottawa, I think Ian Scott’s law firm, very distinguished lawyer, to take action against the, the bureaucrats in my Government who, he alleged, had frustrated the fact that he was never able to get a deal through. This deal. That was the kind of conversation we had.

Q. M’hm.

A. He expressed the hope that Mr. Lalonde would be successful in persuading the new Liberal Government to agree to conditions that would enable him to proceed with the project. That was it.

Emphasis added. That was it. Not: And then he pulled out an envelope stuffed with $75,000 in cash and handed it to me. Not: This was in December 1993, the second of three such meetings in which Schreiber handed over envelopes full of cash to me. Not: But why am I talking about Lalonde? Schreiber hired me to represent the same project overseas.

Clintonian is hardly the word.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.