Forgetful Fred

What a surprise

Close Brian Mulroney confidante Fred Doucet answered repeatedly today he had “no recollection” to almost every question put to him at the public inquiry probing business dealings between Mulroney and German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.

His absence of memory concerning almost everything to do with a controversial proposal by a German company to build light-armoured vehicles in Canada clearly frustrated lead inquiry counsel Richard Wolson.

Doucet, a former chief advisor to Mulroney when he was prime minister, is thought to be a key figure in the inquiry in terms of Mulroney’s involvement in Bear Head Industries project. However, he stated dozens of time that he had no recollection of events or did not recall meetings with individuals with respect to Bear Head, although he acknowledged being hired by Schreiber to lobby for the project after he left the government in August 1988 and was paid $90,000.

Gosh. Doucet must feel a bit sheepish, don’t you think, not being able to remember anything about a project for which he’d lobbied diligently for many years? Still, nothing like as embarrassing as being caught lying under oath.

UPDATE: My mistake. He wasn’t lying. He just … forgot.

A former senior adviser to Brian Mulroney said he can’t remember writing three letters or receiving a fax regarding the purchase and delivery of Airbus planes to Air Canada.

Fred Doucet, testifying at the federal inquiry into the business dealings between Karlheinz Schreiber and the former prime minister, said he had no recollection of any of the correspondence relating to Airbus that took place between 1992 and 1994.

Of particular note is a fax that was sent to Doucet from Denis Biro, then Air Canada’s manager of investor relations, and a letter written by Doucet to Schreiber. Both are dated April 27, 1993, the same date that Mulroney received his first cash envelope from Schreiber at a hotel in Mirabel airport.

At a federal ethics committee last February, Doucet testified he had no knowledge about anything involving Airbus.

In a letter dated Mar. 24, 1992 and addressed to Schreiber, however, Doucet wrote that: “I do not want to bother you with the matter of the Birds. As I recall, you felt that by now I would have heard from [Frank Moores]. I have not heard from him.”

“Birds” is believed to be another word for planes.

When asked about the letter by lead commission counsel Richard Wolson, Doucet replied: “I do not remember anything about that.”

In the second letter, dated Aug. 27, 1993, Doucet wrote that “Mr. Biro has confirmed that 34 Airbus have been purchased and delivered to Air Canada according to the enclosed schedule.”

“I have no memory of that document either,” Doucet told the inquiry.

Wolson seemed perplexed that Doucet had memory of certain things, and no memory of others. He asked how Doucet how he could remember details of a meeting 15 years ago between Mulroney and Schreiber in which Mulroney brought up China, Russian president Boris Yeltsin, and French President Francois Mitterand.

“You can recall specific countries, specific leaders. How is that?” Wolson asked.

“Well it was very vivid in my mind,” Doucet said. “When you talk about the Chinese leadership, when you talk about personages like president Yeltsin, president Mitterand, it registers.”

Wolson asked: “And Airbus airplanes don’t?”

“No,” Doucet said.

So Airbus is now firmly in play, notwithstanding David Johnston’s purblind terms of reference. Doucet has just effectively thumbed his nose at the commission. If his testimony goes unchallenged, it will make a mockery out of the inquiry. And Judge Oliphant cannot allow that to happen.

AMNESIADATE: The Globe has more, including this sublime exchange:

Mr. Justice Jeffrey Oliphant, the chair of the inquiry, tried to jog Mr. Doucet’s memory by asking him the identity of his secretary, who appeared to be the author of one of the letters.

“What was your secretary’s name at that time?” the judge asked. “Someone with the initials B.H.?”

After a long pause, Mr. Doucet replied: “I don’t remember.”

He can’t remember the name of his secretary. Perhaps she (I’ll assume it’s a she) only worked there a week? Maybe he had dozens of secretaries? But what if he only had the one, and for some lengthy period of time? Anybody out there know the name of Fred Doucet’s secretary, circa 1993? The mysterious B.H.?

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