Shooting the Messenger

Mila's Friend, Brian and a Briefcase Full of Cash

Canada’s Ambassador to Washington, Michael Wilson, has acknowledged that he leaked confidential information from Barack Obama's presidential campaign that the Senator did not really want to change NAFTA. This was after Obama publically stated that he would seek to re-negotiate the free trade agreement if elected President.

When former Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou needed to send a similar highly confidential message to President Reagan that he would not follow through on his election campaign promises, he chose a more secure, more direct, if unconventional method than diplomatic channels. He chose as his messenger a beautiful Greek-Canadian woman who just happened to be a childhood friend of the Canadian Prime Minister's wife.

Mary Francis was the social secretary to the Greek Ambassador to Canada. She not only planned but hosted official functions for and with the ambassador. Mary was also a childhood friend of Mila Mulroney. She was with Mila at the exclusive Mont Royal Tennis Club when the future Prime Minister and the future Ms. Mulroney first laid eyes on each other. When her ambassador returned to Greece, she did the same.

I had not seen her for a number of years when she rang my doorbell. She was accompanied by a reputed Greek shipping magnate by the name of Paul M…

Paul was in Canada to convince the Canadian government to allow his ships to ply the Saint Lawrence picking up scraps of wood and sawdust from sawmills that dote the waterway from Gaspé to the Great Lakes without having to pay the normal levies and taxes for foreign ships operating in Canadian waters. The wood scraps would be transformed into ethanol on board his ships and delivered to the American market via the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.

To get his way Paul appeared ready to offer the Prime Minister a substantial bribe. At one point during his visit he asked me if I would keep an eye on a briefcase he had with him at all times. He and Mary were stepping out to rent a car.

"What's in the briefcase?, I asked.

“Monnneeeey,” Paul purred with a smile, "would you like to see it?"

Without waiting for a reply, he placed the briefcase on the kitchen table and began fiddling with the latches. "

"I don't want to see it," I said, "and please take your briefcase with you, if you don't mind."

Why did I not accept the invitation to check out the cash in the briefcase and, if the briefcase did contain cash, alert the authorities that an attempt might be made to bribe the Prime Minister?

It was tempting I admit, even if at the time I thought it might be a joke. I had been out of work for more than a year, if it was not a joke, could I resist asking for a piece of the action? Even if I could resist asking for a few crisp ones to pay the mortgage, would I have informed the authorities if Paul had opened his briefcase and it had been full of cash.

The answer would have to be no, and that is a shame.

I no longer gave a damn. It would take years before I would do so again. If Paul did intend to bribe the Prime Minister and he took the bribe, so what! I now knew better than to stand in corruption’s way.

Mary Francis was, of course, not here to bribe anyone, she was here to visit with her good friend Mila and deliver her confidential message from the Greek Prime Minister to Prime Minister Mulroney who would convey it to President Reagan. Papandreou was in the middle of an election campaign and did not want it delivered via official channels for fear it would be leaked to the press.

Mary was quite miffed when she showed up at my place. The royal treatment she had expected from Mila had not happened. She had met with Mila that day and would meet with her again, but there was no way she was sleeping under the same roof as her and Brian.

The next day, or the day after, she asked me if I would drive her and Paul to meet the Prime Minister. It was during the drive to Brian Mulroney’s office on Parliament Hill (for those in the know, it was a semi-official visit therefore she met with the Prime Minister in his Parliament Hill office not his office in the Langevin Block) that she volunteered the following information:

The Greek Prime Minister was in the middle of an election campaign and was making noises about closing the American bases in Greece. He wanted her to meet with Prime Minister Mulroney so he could tell the President in private (you may remember that Brian Mulroney had established a strong personal relationship with Ronald Reagan) that what he was saying during the election campaign was for local consumption only, he had no intention of making good on any of his threats to close the American bases.

What about Paul’s assumed attempt to bribe the Prime Minister?

Mary Francis was still with the Prime Minister when I got a call from Paul to pick him up and drive him to the airport. He was incensed. How dare they treat him so shabbily! The Prime Minister, it seemed, had wanted nothing to do with him.

It is not clear whether Paul met with the Prime Minister or was simply invited to leave by an aide when the nature of his business became known.

I drove him to the airport. Clutching his briefcase against his chest all the way, he just wanted to get out of a country that “did not know how to do business.”