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George Wolff: Well, the focus initially was that
we had an unproven allegation that was assumed by the entire media to
be true. It was assumed by everyone Brian Mulroney took a bribe in the
Now where's the money? Let's find the trail. And I thought here's the opportunity to be one of the only people who takes the opposite tack. What if it didn't happen? You know, Schreiber says it didn't happen. Where would the bodies be buried if it, if it actually didn't happen? Here we are, ten years later, millions of dollars, thousands and thousands of man hours, no proof it happened.
So that was my thought in the beginning, what if it's – what if it's a herd instinct? What if it's a witch hunt? You know, what if he really isn't guilty? You know, whether or not Schreiber is a, is a good guy, a bad guy, a crook, moral, immoral, all of that stuff, did it happen? And of course the only way to get to that it's impossible to prove a negative, but at least you can build the surrounding detail.
WOLFF AND KARLHEINZ SCHREIBER
Linden MacIntyre: AND WHY DID YOU THINK, I MEAN THE REASON IN FACT NOBODY ELSE HAD HIM WAS NOT BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE THOUGHT OF IT. LIKE WHY DID YOU THINK YOU COULD GET HIM?
George Wolff: I thought that I could use a number
of different techniques. I could exploit the fact that my background
is as a German-born citizen, that I could speak a little German.
I wrote letters to every official in his company and always, you know, did the salutation and greeting in German. I tried to create a sense of common bond, some kind of a bind with him and some sense that I was a little like him, not just in the German background but in the sense that you know, this guy's a force of nature.
If he wants something, he's going to go at it and use every – every effort, and that's what I did. I just you know, just carpet bombed his operation.
Linden MacIntyre: AND HOW LONG DID IT TAKE BEFORE YOU FELT THE TUG ON THE OTHER END OF THE FISHING LINE?
George Wolff: It was less than two months. Phone call out of the blue with his typical thick accent. Of course, I just about fell through the floor that it had succeeded, but it worked.
Linden MacIntyre: AND WHAT WAS THE GIST OF THE PHONE CALL?
George Wolff: The gist of the phone essentially
was he was acknowledging, he was feeling me out, acknowledging
the, all of the attempts to contact him, feeling me out and my part
of the conversation was essentially – to tell
him your story hasn't been
I want you on camera, I want to talk to you, I want to find out everything you know about, about what this is because I saw your – this quote came out before I spoke to him.
It was Robert Fife in, in the Ottawa Sun, Mulroney is no more guilty than the pope, he quoted Schreiber as saying. I thought okay, you know, let's talk about that. You know, if Mulroney is no more guilty than the pope, explain, you know, where does this come from? So that was the nature of feeling out.
WOLFF'S RELATIONSHIP WITH SCHREIBER
Linden MacIntyre: CAN YOU KIND OF SUM UP THE NATURE, LIKE WHAT WAS IT LIKE DEALING WITH KARLHEINZ SCHREIBER?
George Wolff: Like nothing, no person I'd ever
dealt with before in the business. I mean first of all, there's no such
thing as a short conversation or a phone call with Karlheinz Schreiber.
If the phone rings, Karlheinz is on the line, you're giving up an hour and a half of your day to listen to Karlheinz Schreiber. And you'll get a word in edgewise and maybe it'll be um hm, um hm. But Karlheinz is coming at you and coming at you and coming at you.
Karlheinz has an agenda. He wants something and you can – you can get a word in edgewise, but Karlheinz makes it known about 100 times what it is he really wants in his agenda.
And makes sure that you understand that there is really no other way of looking at things but his. So it's like dealing with a force of nature, like a hurricane – a Florida reference.
Linden MacIntyre: NOW THE POINT REMAINS THAT AT A CERTAIN POINT IN TIME – I'LL PUT THIS AS A QUESTION – DID IT EVER CROSS YOUR MIND THAT YOU WERE BEING MANIPULATED, EVER, BY EITHER KARLHEINZ SCHREIBER – WELL, YES, YOU WERE BEING MANIPULATED.
George Wolff: Yes, of course I was.
Linden MacIntyre: YOU WERE BEING MANIPULATED.
George Wolff: Of course. Schreiber's intent was to manipulate me and everybody else he could get his hands on.
WOLFF ON KARLHEINZ SCHREIBER
Linden MacIntyre: WHAT IS IT ABOUT KARLHEINZ SCHREIBER THAT OPENS DOORS?
George Wolff: A couple of things. One is money, and
this is actually how I got a lot of the initial contacts to reach
Karlheinz Schreiber. It was through a secretary in a cabinet minister's
officer, her boyfriend said she knew how to reach all of these offices
of Karlheinz Schreiber because Karlheinz came through this cabinet minister's
And every time she, the secretary, would get a hundred dollar bill from him. So he would, you know, grease the skids with the less important quote unquote people to get his way in.
And when he got to the person in power, he was a force of nature, just as he was with me. He just wasn't stoppable. He was a tank.
Linden MacIntyre: WHY WOULD THYSSEN GIVE HIM A BIG PILE OF MONEY? WHY WOULD MBB HELICOPTER COMPANY GIVE HIM A BIG PILE OF MONEY?
George Wolff: Well, I mean Schreiber is often described
as an arms dealer. He's
an influence dealer. And frankly, bribery is not illegal in
Europe or among the European governments. They didn't care, I
Although I understand from one of your interviews that MBB was appalled, nonetheless I think there were certain executives that didn't care. They just knew here's a guy who can move money around, who can move influence, who gets things done.
By all accounts, he moved NBC vehicles in Saudi Arabia, he has done deals in Thailand and Costa Rica. Give him the money and it will get it done.
Now there's talk that Franz Josef Strauss may have done it for political reasons as well. I don't know. I just think, you know, Schreiber is recognized as a man who deals in influence. He deals in people. He manages people, manages relationships and if it takes money, that's fine with him. Were bribes paid? I don't know.
Linden MacIntyre: WHAT DO YOU THINK HE DID WITH THE MONEY IN CANADA?
George Wolff: What he did with the money? I don't think that kind of money is accountable. I don't know the answer. I don't know. I don't think he keeps books that maybe the investigators will get it.
GIORGIO PELOSSI AND THE Airbus SCANDAL
Linden MacIntyre: WHAT WAS THE ORIGIN OF IT THEN, IF – LET'S SAY IT WAS SPURIOUS, THAT IT WAS MALICIOUS. WHERE WAS IT START – WHERE DID IT START?
George Wolff: Well I think you know, I have the
transcript right here of this lovely conversation with Giorgio Pelossi
in which he admits yes, he was imprisoned for laundering Mafia drug
He admits that he took money from Schreiber's accounts, and he says that Schreiber put them in a serious situation, referring to Moores – the question. You have no argument with Brian Mulroney or Frank Moores? No, no.
But – me: You've put them in a serious situation? Pelossi: Schreiber put them in a serious situation. If he settled the thing with me, it never, never comes out. That is a bald admission that he brought this to the authorities, brought it to the German newspapers, brought it to the – whoever would listen to him, that he was on the warpath.
Linden MacIntyre: YOU SEEM TO BE SUGGESTING THAT THERE WAS A WITCH HUNT AGAINST BRIAN MULRONEY. SURELY PELOSSI DIDN'T CARE ABOUT BRIAN MULRONEY.
George Wolff: No, Pelossi was also amoral at best and he just wanted to attack Mr. Schreiber in any way he could because he –
Linden MacIntyre: YOU KNOW, WHAT WAS IT THAT SUSTAINED – WAS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR BEYOND ALL THOSE CHARACTER FLAWS THAT SUSTAINED YOUR SCEPTICISM AND YOUR, YOUR TAKE ON THIS STORY FOR A LONG TIME?
George Wolff: Yeah. The total absence of evidence.
The only evidence that sustained this story was that Schreiber received
money from Airbus after the Air Canada deal. And this proved nothing.
I mean they could have been sending him pizzas.
It proves nothing that he received money. It doesn't flesh out his story and that's the only part of the story that remains to this day, after all this time
Linden MacIntyre: BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, TEN YEARS – MANY MORE THAN TEN YEARS LATER, GIORGIO PELOSSI IS STILL JUST AS UNSAVORY AS HE WAS THEN. BUT WE ARE NO CLOSER TO, TO ABSOLUTELY DISPROVING THE SUGGESTIONS, ALLEGATIONS, WHATEVER HE CAME UP WITH AT THE TIME, THAT SET OFF A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE HUNTING IN A WHOLE LOT OF DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS.
George Wolff: Well, as I say, first of all, of
course, you can't disprove
a negative. Second of all, we have proven that not only is Giorgio Pelossi,
a piece of work, but also one of the key journalists involved in
this was self-dealing, was trading information with the police and using
it in whatever way.
This is a pretty shabby basis for any allegation against, against a prime minister or anybody else. It's a shabby foundation. We've got ten years, we've got thousands and thousands of man and woman hours, we got millions of Canadian dollars spent and we've got nothing. Why is nothing proven? Because you can't prove a negative.
Now, if you can't prove that there was something there, you can't disprove it. So it would have helped if Schreiber had come forward and, and put himself forward for examination, for a full and complete explanation of the facts.
I wanted him to. That was the only reason that I endured these endless hour and a half phone calls because it was my objective to get everybody down and have an open conversation. But that's not the way he does business.
Schreiber does business by piecing out bits of information, manipulating and trying to control the situation. So that would have helped. That would have made a difference.
GEORGE WOLFF AND BRIAN MULRONEY
Linden MacIntyre: NOW YOU ENDED UP BEING PERCEIVED IN THE MEDIA AS BEING ON PART OF THE MULRONEY CAMP.
George Wolff: Well that's –
Linden MacIntyre: DID IT EVER BOTHER YOU AS A REPORTER THAT YOU BECAME ASSOCIATED WITH THE SO-CALLED MULRONEY SIDE OF THE DISCUSSION?
George Wolff: It bothered me to the extent that I
felt I wasn't being heard,
that I guess this is intended to be some kind of slander.
Oh, you're on the Mulroney side. I really thought that there was
a good story that was not being told, that was not being echoed.
As I said in the closing of that piece, it really ought to be into the consideration that the source to Stevie Cameron, the source to the Mounties, Giorgio Pelossi, was an extortionist, a Mafia drug launderer, that this ought to affect the credibility of the charges.
And it didn't because there was a single-minded determination I think to carry on with the story was it was. I felt that, you know, there was, there was much to be examined in what happened with the Ward Air deal and how much that moved the Airbus deal along.
But you know, so I was frustrated that these things, you know, that I was trying to bring forward weren't –
Linden MacIntyre: BUT WHAT ABOUT BRIAN MULRONEY'S TEAM, WHICH WAS REPRESENTED BY LUC LAVOIE? DID IT EVER CROSS YOUR MIND THAT THESE GUYS WERE MANIPULATING YOU ALSO?
George Wolff: I understood, as I do in every
story, that the people I'm
talking to want to manipulate me. They want me to report the story the
way they want it reported. So absolutely, Schreiber wanted to manipulate
me, wanted me to report the story the way he saw it.
He was angry when I didn't. I understood that Luc Lavoie wanted me to report the story as he saw it, and I acted independently. Sometimes they were angry with me, sometimes they were happy with me.
It was obviously a useful door-opener to have the sincere opinion, but there was no proof of a bribe. That made them more welcoming to me but it didn't make me their patsy.
Linden MacIntyre: NOW, IS IT POSSIBLE THAT LUC LAVOIE WAS USING YOU AS A PART OF HIS DIS INFORMATION CAMPAIGN?
George Wolff: If that's what he said, he was
using me as part of his dis-information campaign, absolutely. Luc Lavoie
had nothing to do with that.
As a matter of fact, it was one of the early events that Schreiber, in the course of giving me lots of information showed me how much influence he had, that he had birthday greetings from this person and that person, and when the issue came up, Brian Mulroney wished Schreiber a happy birthday. I spoke to Schreiber and I said, can you believe it? You know? If Chrétien wished you a happy birthday too.
I have your fax the birthday greeting in the files, and it's another demonstration of this incredible hypocrisy. So I had the document. I saw hypocrisy. I made it into a story. I put it on air in public.
THE LEAK OF THE LETTER TO THE SWISS
Linden MacIntyre: WHERE DID THAT LEAK COME FROM?
George Wolff: I'm absolutely convinced that Karlheinz Schreiber arranged to leak it through Philip Matthias.
Linden MacIntyre: IN THE FINANCIAL POST.
George Wolff: In the Financial Post. He told me that
in so many words that he'd done it, but he spoke to me
often of how he had uh selected Philip Matthias, that he found him
to be a credible journalist, that he thought that Philip Matthias was
the right person to be talking to.
So here's Schreiber admitting, you know, I picked a journalist, which is the next thing to say, I planted that story, I placed that story. I believe he did.
Linden MacIntyre: AND WHY WOULD IT HAVE BEEN TO HIS ADVANTAGE AT THAT PARTICULAR POINT TO PLAN THAT PARTICULAR STORY IN THAT PLACE?
George Wolff: This story was surfacing in tiny, obscure
places in Europe. Schreiber well knew that it was going to come out
in the Canadian media soon. Bribery of a prime minister. Of course it's
going to explode in the media.
So the question is, how do you make it a controlled explosion? Schreiber's all about control. He gave that story, in my opinion, to Philip Matthias and shaped and steered it, as he tried to shape and steer things that we talked about.
He shaped and steered that story, so it came out as something that was less about shocking bribery of a prime minister and it was more about legal action and, and Schreiber's reaction. It was much more controlled.
You read that story, you'll Schreiber's hand in it.
Linden MacIntyre: WHAT IT SEEMED TO SUBSTANTIATE WAS THAT THERE WAS A POLITICALLY DRIVEN CAMPAIGN TO SLANDER AND POSSIBLY RUIN BRIAN MULRONEY.
George Wolff: That's right.
Linden MacIntyre: HERE WAS THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA TALKING TO ANOTHER GOVERNMENT ABOUT A POTENTIAL CROOK IN THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE.
George Wolff: That was the spin on it and at the
time, I believed it too, that it was – that it was all politics.
I no longer believe that. I think it's basically down to, to a
few other people, so. But that was his spin, that it was a political
hunt to get him.
And that's the spin he wanted. So at the same time the story broke that there was an accusation of the prime minister, there was an equal accusation out there that the Liberals were running a spin. So he managed to balance what was otherwise a pretty horrible story.
Linden MacIntyre: AND IT RESULTED IN A FAIRLY LARGE LAWSUIT.
George Wolff: It did indeed.
Linden MacIntyre: WELL I'M JUST WONDERING, I MEAN I GUESS THIS IS A SORT OF ANOTHER WAY OF TRYING TO – APART FROM THE FACT KARLHEINZ KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO COME OUT SOMEPLACE, SOMETIME, AND HE BETTER HAVE SOME CONTROL OVER IT. WHY WOULD HE CARE? WHY WOULD IT MATTER TO HIM? BECAUSE THE, THE MAIN VICTIM, IF YOU WANTED TO CALL IT THAT, IN THE LETTER TO SWITZERLAND WAS BRIAN MULRONEY. HE WAS THE MAN WITH THE MOST TO LOSE, SO WHY WOULD KARLHEINZ CARE?
George Wolff: Well, I think Karlheinz cared because
his name was on the document. He was being named publicly for the first
time as a briber, as a middleman, a bagman. Certainly he would
If you're asking, you know, did Brian Mulroney, do I think Brian Mulroney had anything to do with it, did Brian Mulroney set up his own libel suit, if that's where this is going, the answer is I don't know.
I think the two were very close at the time, Schreiber and Mulroney. It's entirely possible that Mulroney knew that Schreiber was going to leak it. And the basis of the lawsuit could have been corrupted by that, yes.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MULRONEY AND SCHREIBER
Linden MacIntyre: AND AT THE END OF THE DAY, BRIAN
MULRONEY SWORE IN COURT UNDER OATH THAT HE HAD NO BUSINESS DEALINGS
OR CERTAINLY HE HAD A REALLY SORT OF PERIPHERAL RELATIONSHIP WITH KARLHEINZ
DO YOU BELIEVE HIM? DO YOU STILL THINK THAT THAT IS THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH?
George Wolff: I think it worked this
way. I think that Schreiber was like the unwelcome guest at a party,
that he was forever trying to break into government to influence,
to find people to talk to, you know, handing 100 dollars bills to secretaries.
I know these things to be true and, and he was pestering Mulroney, he was pestering everybody with these three deals. Because he was being paid, he wanted to do what he does, which is to – is to spread influence.
And when this allegation arose, I think they suddenly became a whole lot closer, that this guy who was a pest suddenly became somebody that he had to – one of the few people that he could coordinate with.
So yeah, I think from that point on, I think they were on the phone a lot. And do I think they were really close prior to that? I don't have any evidence that they were.
THE $300,000 IN CASH
Linden MacIntyre: WHEN DID YOU GET THE SENSE, AND MAYBE EVEN THE KNOWLEDGE, THAT YOU KNOW WHAT, THERE'S SOMETHING THERE? SCHREIBER DID GIVE MONEY TO BRIAN MULRONEY. IT WASN'T WHILE HE WAS A PRIME MINISTER PROBABLY, BUT GAVE HIM MONEY SHORTLY THEREAFTER.
George Wolff: It was at least two years after I left
Canada and left the news business, and Schreiber and I would talk periodically
and we'd talk
about Mulroney and this sense came every – We'd talk about once
a month, and this sense of rising anger and frustration with Mulroney
came forward and it built like a crescendo from anger to he
doesn't realize what I have on him to actually telling me that yes,
indeed, he had given Mulroney money.
So I think there's a building sense of frustration and that it was in several years after I left the business.
Linden MacIntyre: NOW, BUT WHY WOULDN'T THAT
HAVE CAUSED YOU THEN TO SAY, MAYBE I GOT SUCKED IN. MAYBE I GOT IT WRONG
WHEN I WENT TO OPEN-MINDED, AND THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.
BUT YOU WENT ENERGETICALLY TO EXPLORE THIS FROM THE MULRONEY POINT OF VIEW.
George Wolff: Because of the absence of evidence,
ten years, thousand man hours, there's still no evidence, you
know. I mean yes, that, that suggests that there's – well
it proves that there's money going between the two of them.
But it doesn't prove that it happened in office. It would have been extraordinarily stupid for a prime minister to have taken cash money while in office. So it's not the kind of thing you accept, that I accept lightly. I need some proof.
So yes, some things happened after Mulroney left office. They were explained to me by Schreiber as essentially Mulroney was desperate for money. He had various needs and this was Schreiber's way of controlling people.
This doesn't prove that a bribe was paid for influence in the Airbus deal while Mulroney was in office. It just doesn't prove it.
So you know, it proves what, what I've always understood about Schreiber is that he's in the business of influencing and controlling people, and using money or whatever else to do it.
Linden MacIntyre: BUT IF SOMEBODY TOLD ME THAT GEORGE WOLFF, THE LONE WOLF IN THE MULRONEY STORY AND THAT YOU TOOK THAT PARTICULAR LIKE VIEW OF THE STORY, WHICH IS NOT – NOT MAINSTREAM. IF YOU'RE LIVING IN FLORIDA TODAY BECAUSE BRIAN MULRONEY GAVE YOU A PILE OF MONEY, YOU KNOW, A MONTH OR TWO AFTER YOU LEFT CTV, YOU WOULDN'T BE UPSET IF I WAS SUSPICIOUS OF IT, WOULD YOU? YOU WOULDN'T UPSET IF I TOOK THAT THE WRONG WAY?
George Wolff: Yeah. Would I be upset if you took it the wrong way? I would expect you to take it the wrong way.
Linden MacIntyre: AND YET YOU DIDN'T TAKE IT THE WRONG WAY WHEN YOU FOUND OUT THAT KARLHEINZ SCHREIBER GAVE BRIAN MULRONEY $300,000 DURING THE MONTHS AFTER HE LEFT OFFICE.
George Wolff: I guess the reason is because I don't
think Schreiber lies to me. I think Schreiber fails to tell the whole
truth. I think an absolute standard of evidence is needed to prove an
allegation of bribery of a public official, a prime minister.
That standard has not been met after ten years. So I remain to be persuaded. It's a super serious allegation. It is an entirely different thing to give money, portrayed as a loan, by Mr. Schreiber. Perhaps influence pedding, peddling.
An entirely different thing, to give money to an official after he's out of office than to give money to someone in office, a higher standard of proof applies. That standard has not been met after ten years. There is no evidence.
So why would I, why would I assume something that has been not proven?
Linden MacIntyre: AND THE $300,000, WHERE DOES THAT FIT?
George Wolff: That happened after Mulroney left office. This is Schreiber being Schreiber, Schreiber being an influence dealer, Schreiber buying loyalty, Schreiber buying fear in control. It doesn't prove anything else.
Linden MacIntyre: OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT MABYE BRIAN MULRONEY HAS LAPSES IN GOOD JUDGEMENT FROM TIME TO TIME.
George Wolff: Well, yes, Brian Mulroney is many things
and a nice guy, I wouldn't
accuse him of being that. A straightforward guy, I wouldn't accuse
him of being that. Having a really bad lapse of judgment, I think he
was desperate, at least according to Schreiber he was desperate.
So yes, it was a horrendous lapse in judgment, a really stupid thing to do, no matter how much financial difficulty he may have been in. Very stupid, very imprudent but it doesn't – hasn't changed anything.
It hasn't proved the other allegation and it hasn't changed for the better or worse how people think about Brian Mulroney because most Canadians hate the guy, you know. And that's their political right to hate the guy.
THE SPLIT BETWEEN SCHREIBER AND MULRONEY
Linden MacIntyre: WHAT WAS THE SOURCE OF THE RUPTURE?
George Wolff: I think partly it was the infamous
statement from Luc Lavoie that Schreiber
is the biggest effing liar and the attribution of that to Brian
Mulroney. I think that was a huge tear in the relationship.
But I think, and I know you're aware of that. But I think also that Schreiber expected, for his payment of $300,000, for his loan of $300,000, that he expected some loyalty and some influence ongoing in the coming years.
Schreiber was having difficulties, having difficulty getting his business going, people wouldn't meet him in meetings anymore because he had a reputation as a, as a schmiergelderer. He was losing influence, the thing that he needed most, and he reached out to Brian Mulroney, in my opinion, and Mulroney gave him the cold shoulder. And because I spoke to Schreiber so often, I felt a rising sense of anger.
It wasn't just the one, you know, biggest effing liar quote. There was a rising sense this guy, you know, that is not – is not a nice guy. This guy is not playing ball with me, Schreiber is saying.
And uh, and eventually Schreiber's telling me, Mulroney doesn't know what he's playing with. I've got all of this cash that I gave him, he's in trouble if he, i doesn't start playing ball with me.
And ultimately, Schreiber dropped the hammer.
WOLFF RETROSPECTIVE ON HOW HE COVERED THE STORY
Linden MacIntyre: DO YOU HAVE ANY SECOND THOUGHTS TODAY, ALL THESE YEARS LATER?
George Wolff: Any second thoughts?
Linden MacIntyre: ON HOW YOU APPROACHED IT, HOW YOU WOULD GO AT IT TODAY, WOULD YOU DO IT ANY DIFFERENTLY?
George Wolff: My second thoughts are that I should
have spent more time digging into the possibility of shady dealings
on the Airbus deal with Ward Air because that's where actual government
influence was needed and was apparently acquired.
I regret that I didn't do that. I don't regret having taken the view that somebody is innocent until proven guilty. And after ten years, no credible evidence has surfaced. Despite many suspicions, no credible evidence has surfaced that a crime was committed by the prime minister while he's in office. So I have no second thoughts.
If somebody had produced a document, any kind of proof that that bribery had actually taken place, I would be appalled and I'd be filled with second thoughts. The fact is the evidence has not come out despite huge efforts by enormous numbers of people.
So I have nothing to regret. I reported from the start, there is no evidence to prove this allegation. I don't believe it. At this ten years later, there's no evidence – evidence to prove this allegation, so I have nothing to be embarrassed about.