“Money, intrigue, war, a little sex, a couple of mysterious deaths – they’re all here. …The Last Amigo peel[s] away the actions, the machinations, the false bonhomie and the true nature of this group of the rich and powerful.”
“The practice and philosophy of Schmiergelder is at the heart of The Last Amigo. It’s a cautionary tale of globalization, a glimpse into a world that many of us suspect exists but, especially in the Canadian media, prefer not to acknowledge.”
In the mid-70s, Karlheinz Schreiber, a self-made German businessman with a keen eye for a deal and high ambitions for lucrative business enterprises, came to Ottawa to seek his fortune. And what a fortune he eventually found. By the time of his arrest on tax evasion and bribery charges in August 1999, Schreiber had brokered a series of deals that yielded millions in secret commissions shared between himself and a cadre of Canadian and German middlemen. Outgoing and charming, persistent and opportunistic, Schreiber’s talent lay in cultivating Canadian men of influence–lawyers, politicians, lobbyists, fellow businessmen–and using those connections to benefit his European clients. One of his greatest coups was expediting “the largest civilian purchase of aircraft in Canada’s history”: a $1.8-billion contract between Airbus Industrie and Air Canada that included almost $20 million in secret commissions. “Operation Fox,” which procured German military vehicles and tanks for the Saudis–skirting rigid German export laws and flagrantly disregarded Saudi prohibitions “against payments to third-party agents in any deal involving government purchases”–included commissions totalling almost half of the DM 466-million deal.
The Last Amigo, a thorough and painstakingly researched examination of Schreiber’s shadowy career in Canada and abroad. It includes a detailed account of investigations by journalists, the German government, and the RCMP that not only prompted allegations of conspiracy and fraud against former prime minister Brian Mulroney but touched off a scandal that ultimately brought down German chancellor Helmut Kohl. Observers of jet-setting global politics will find this story chillingly familiar: how bribes, kickbacks, and secret commissions grease the wheels of government contracts, how shell companies and numbered Swiss accounts shield identities, launder cash, and frustrate the tax man. And most distressingly, it proves how well Karlheinz Schreiber understood “one tenet of the middleman’s creed … that every man has his price.” — Svenja Soldovieri