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The Last Amigo: Karlheinz Schreiber and the Anatomy of a Scandal

by Stevie Cameron and Harvey Cashore

Writing a book about a political scandal comes with its own challenges, including the aggressive research involved and the process of rearranging those facts into a compelling narrative. Writing a book about a Canadian political scandal, however, invites a few additional challenges. The words “Canadian” and “scandal” hardly roll off the tongue as easily as “Clinton” and “Lewinsky.”
Journalists Stevie Cameron and Harvey Cashore have apparently decided that the events surrounding the Airbus scandal – which helped to bring down the Helmut Kohl government in Germany and left a permanent stain on Brian Mulroney’s reputation – are shocking enough to warrant a straightforward narrative of who said what to whom with only passing mention of the bigger issues at hand. At first, this approach holds some promise: the opening scene recounts the arrest of German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber for bribery and tax evasion, and the ensuing melee of the trial makes for some entertaining anecdotes and character descriptions.
This strategy does not work throughout the book, where events that took years to unfold are retold in meticulous – and, in some cases, excruciating – detail. Nobody can fault the authors for dishonesty, since The Last Amigo is precisely what it purports to be: an anatomy of the scandal, an indiscriminate documentation and dissection of each fact. The authors regale us with the numbers of each bank account (“41391.0,” “18679.1,” and let us not forget “639.740.0”), and, as if to prove that they have done their research, they even spell out the name of one of the contracts. Such inclusions may have pleased their libel lawyers, but they do not make for interesting reading.