Fank Magazine – no relation – makes a list regularly of words and expressions that are trite and over-used by journalists and I take off my hat to them for doing so. I also promise to never use that trite expression again – unless I have to.

The one trite expression they have never noted is: “I made a mistake.” Like when a mobster testifying on the witness stand says: “I never saw the guy before in my life!” He is then confronted with a film of him talking to a mobster in a parking lot about a drug deal. So he now says: “I made a mistake.”

Everybody is always sorry for someone who makes a mistake, because we all make mistakes. That is why almost every criminal lawyer in town is coaching his clients to humbly admit to making a mistake and say they are sorry for it. But to admit to lying – never. Judges, please note that telling a lie and making a mistake are not the same thing.

This “I made a mistake” line was used by former prime minister Brian Mulroney recently, when he appeared before a Commons ethics committee made up of MPs investigating international arms dealer and lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber’s claims that he paid Mulroney $300,000 in cash in 1993 and 1994 in New York and Montreal.

According to a fascinating article in Frank, Mulroney only paid taxes on the sum in 2000, five years after the RCMP arrested Schreiber in 1999 on a warrant from German authorities seeking his extradition on fraud and bribery charges. This involved a scandal about the bribery of German politicians, including payments made to officials by Schreiber.

The money, according the Schreiber, came from money left over from $4 million in commissions paid to him by Thyssen Industry, a massive German arms firm, for an agreement to construct an armoured vehicle plant in Cape Breton, N.S. called the Bear Head Project (love that name), which was scrapped in 1990 by Mulroney without his telling Schreiber. Schreiber only learned about it, he said, from the RCMP investigating the Airbus Scandal. Schreiber accused Mulroney of betraying him and cut off his $100,000 a year in cash payments.

Schreiber claims in his defence that he paid cash to Mulroney because he didn’t want to leave a paper trail. So he brought a binder with perhaps 1,000 pages of shadowy going-ons which zeroed in on Airbus. Schreiber’s credibility was hurt when he was forced to sign a letter to Harper exonerating Mulroney in order not to be extradited to Germany. He claimed he would have signed anything to prevent that.

A former disgruntled crony of Schreiber’s is the principal witness against him in the criminal cases launched in Germany. Suprisingly, many leaders of major European countries were directly involved in attempting to market Airbus passenger jets over the more popular Boeing competition.

Mulroney complained passionately at the hearing that the biggest mistake he ever made in his whole life was having anything to do with Schreiber. Schreiber has accused Mulroney, during his years in power, of having millions of dollars transferred through murky banking channels to influential figures with federal government projects.

None of these allegations has been proven in court and Mulroney claims he’s as innocent as Snow White. The five Tories on the committee, with orders from Harper, have almost worked themselves into a frenzy trying to smear Schreiber and impugn his integrity – which is not a difficult feat. This inquiry precedes a public inquiry due in the near future into Mulroney’s dealings and Schreiber’s charges. It involves former MP Elmer McKay, Peter McKay’s father, Defence Minister Peter McKay and a host of other big name politicians. Who got the $5 million in the “Canadian Fund” set up to dole out payola in the Airbus deal?

In a National Post article by Don Martin, it was stated that if they ever investigate Schreiber’s allegations that a political aide 15 years ago hinted at money shifting from an airline bribe account to a former prime minister through a Geneva lawyer, Brian may have to give back the $2.1 million in compensation and the government may have to retract its apology for the Airbus scandal.

There was also some indication at the time of the stacking of the airline’s board of directors with Mulroney’s cronies. If there is anything that warrants a major investigation, it is Mulroney’s financial swamp. I long to be there when the fertilizer hits the fan. Now that’s a trite expression, but I hope I never hear: “I made a mistake.”