The plane from Toronto arrived in Munich at 9:22 a.m. on Monday. Two police vans and three unmarked vehicles awaited the arrival. Their quarry: Karlheinz Schreiber, the infamous 75-year-old former arms lobbyist with dual Canadian-German citizenship, who had been at the center of Germany's biggest postwar political scandal.
After the other passengers had disembarked, police escorted Schreiber to one of the waiting cars. He was taken straight to Augsburg, Bavaria, where a cell measuring nine square meters awaits the businessman who had allegedly made millions acting as a go-between for industry giants and top politicians in both Germany and Canada.
Proceedings against Schreiber, who had exhausted every legal option to escape extradition to his homeland, will begin either later on Monday or first thing on Tuesday. Schreiber is wanted for tax evasion, bribery and fraud. According to the Augsburg prosecutor's office, Schreiber made around €15 million after he did work on behalf of German industrial giant Thyssen Krupp AG in several arms projects.
A Million Deutsche Marks In The Carpark
The accusations against the businessman also have a hefty political dimension. Schreiber was a key figure in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) donations scandal that rocked Germany's parliament in the 1990s, cost Wolfgang Schäuble, then the chairman of the party, his job and disgraced former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who lost his position as honorary party chairman. Allegations that Schreiber had donated cash to Walther Leisler Kiep, the former treasurer of the CDU, started a scandal that only got worse when Kohl, who was in power from 1982 to 1998, admitted that he had accepted off-the-books -- and therefore, illegal -- donations from supporters.
From the mid-80s through to 1995, Schreiber is accused of transferring money to various German and Canadian businessmen and politicians using a network of Swiss bank accounts. He is alleged to have handed a donation of one million deutsche marks to Kiep in a supermarket parking lot on August 26, 1991. The donation allegedly came in the form of thousand mark banknotes stuffed into a suitcase. Former defense ministy official Holger Pfahls also received 3.8 million marks for his help in securing a Saudi Arabian deal involving armored vehicles. When the scandal broke, Pfahls fled, but he was eventually arrested in Paris and convicted.
A Temporary Safe Haven in Canada
Schreiber fled to Canada in 1999, and prosecutors in Germany have attempted to extradite him since August of that year. In the ensuing decade, Schreiber used every legal weapon to remain in Canada.
But on Friday evening, Canadian television channel CTV reported, representatives from Canada's justice department paid a surprise visit to Schreiber and told him that he would be taken into custody within 48 hours, pending deportation to Germany. Schreiber then applied for an emergency hearing during the weekend, in order to obtain an injunction.
Justice Department lawyer Richard Kramer told the Toronto-based daily Globe and Mail that Schreiber had already exhausted all remaining opportunities to appeal his deportation. "If Mr. Schreiber has lacked anything in his extradition, it is not access to procedural fairness," Kramer said, according to the newspaper.
In ruling against him this time, Ontario Superior Court Justice Barbara Ann Conway told news agencies Schreiber "has travelled a long road in fighting his extradition to Germany. He is now at the end of that road."
Schreiber: Politics Will Prejudice Any Trial
Upon reaching the jail on Sunday evening, Schreiber held a hurried, impromptu press conference with waiting reporters. He told them that he believed the decision to extradite him now was a political one. He has said as much previously in a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which was also sent to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a member of the CDU and Kohl's former protege, and to German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. In the letter he said he feared he would not receive a fair trial in Germany due to political prejudice against him.
"We have an election coming up in Germany in September," he told gathered reporters on Sunday night. "The Social Democrats won three elections with my case in the past. Now you can read about it in the paper. If I would come now that would be the greatest thing. It would start a huge circus and investigation and Chancellor Kohl and everybody would be there. And with that they would think they could win the next election."
However, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson noted that the extradition was based on an order issued against Schreiber on Oct. 31, 2004 by Nicholson's predecessor, Irwin Cotler. Last Thursday, his department had received a fax in which German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries -- a member of the CDU's government coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD) -- urged that he consent to German extradition requests so that "the proceedings against Schreiber can finally be carried out."
There have been other reasons for Schreiber's ongoing stay in Canada. The former lobbyist has also been part of a Canadian political scandal. Schreiber claims that the former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney accepted money from him -- 225,000 Canadian dollars - in exchange for promoting a light armoured vehicle factory on behalf of Thyssen Krupp. Mulroney says the deal was struck after he left office, but Schreiber says it happened while Mulroney was still in power -- which would breach Canadian rules about ethics.
A Prisoner Just Like Any Other
There has been an official commission of enquiry into the matter and Nicholson had agreed to a stay of extradition in 2007 so Schreiber could testify before the public inquiry. Schreiber had said he would not cooperate with the enquiry unless he was allowed to stay, and Bavarian prosecutors agreed to abide by Canadian decisions in this regard. But the final hearing took place last Tuesday and conclusions will be published by the end of the year. That development left the path clear for a surprise visit from Canadian Justice Department officials on Friday evening.
For the next few days, his home will be a nine square meter cell. "He will be treated the same as any other prisoner awaiting trial," the head of the Augsburg prison told the German press agency DPA. He can have two half-hour visits a month, he will have a daily hour of exercise in the prison yard. And if he wants a television in his cell, he will have to pay for it himself.
It's the same sort of cell that the ex-defense secretary Holger Pfahls also had when he was awaiting trail on charges in the corruption scandal, in which Schreiber allegedly played such an integral part.