Canadian prime minister delays inquiry into German arms lobbyist

( dpa ) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper postponed Saturday a public inquiry into cash payments involving a German- Canadian businessman/arms lobbyist and former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

A special adviser, David Johnson, had Friday recommended a relatively narrow inquiry into cash payments from Karlheinz Schreiber to former Canadian prime minister Mulroney in 1993 and 1994, according to the Globe and Mail daily.

In a statement, Harper said: "After reviewing the report and consulting Professor Johnston, the government has decided to convene a public inquiry once the House of Commons standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics has finished its hearings."

The hearings are not expected to finish before late February. The opposition has accused Harper of a protraction strategy.

Mulroney had admitted to receiving a total of 225,000 dollars in cash from Schreiber in 1993 and 1994 to back the construction of a German arms company in Canada. Schreiber claims the total sum came to 300,000 dollars.

Apart from that, Mulroney had agreed to the deal during his tenure as prime minister, which amounts to a breach of the political code of ethics.

Harper had vowed to investigate the accusations thoroughly when the affair became known last year. The opposition now accuses him of playing for time until after a crucial confidence vote on the 2008 budget in February.

In December, a Canadian court Tuesday agreed to set Schreiber, 73, free on bail. Schreiber has been in and out of Canadian jails since 1999 on million-dollar bails and seeks to evade extradition to Germany over a decade-old finance scandal that rocked German politics.

Schreiber is implicated in a party-financing scandal that engulfed former German chancellor Helmut Kohl and tainted his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) when it was Germany's main opposition party in the late 1990s.

Schreiber has denied wrongdoing. Instead, he is suing the Canadian government for 35 million dollars in damages for botching his extradition case. He filed the damages case in 1996, charging that Canadian justice officials had colluded with German justice officials behind his back to extradite him.

Schreiber is wanted for tax evasion under court order in Germany. He believes that he would not receive a fair trial in Augsburg, Germany, where a year of preventive detention awaits him before a trial for his alleged wrongdoings in the late 1990s would begin. dpa nw pb mga

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