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Canadian PM denies report about alleged intervention in SNC-Lavalin fraud case

10 February 2019
Canadian PM denies report about alleged intervention in SNC-Lavalin fraud case

The Globe reports top officials in the Prime Minister's Office tried to pressure then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to drop criminal prosecution against the company.

The company, based in Canada's Quebec province, was charged with corruption and fraud in connection with payments of almost 36 million USA dollars in bribes to public officials in the former Libyan government of late leader Muammar Gaddafi and defrauded Libyan organizations of an estimated 98 million dollars between 2001 and 2011.

"If the prime minister truly believes there is no wrongdoing here, he should invite the ethics commissioner to investigate his office's dealings with SNC-Lavalin and whether or not that was a factor in the removal of Ms. Wilson-Raybould from her position as attorney general", NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement.

The director's court filing is the latest twist in a dispute at the heart of high-profile allegations the Prime Minister's Office leaned on former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene on the engineering firm's behalf. Months later, Wilson-Raybould was moved to the veterans affairs post in a January cabinet shuffle, and Montrealer David Lametti took over as attorney general and justice minister.

Neither Trudeau nor Wilson-Raybould nor SNC-Lavalin has immediately responded to questions from The Canadian Press about the story.

If the Prime Minister's Office was trying to pressure Wilson-Raybould on a decision on a criminal case, rather than just discuss general issues, that would violate a constitutional principle. The agreement is a way of holding a company accountable for what it did, but the company itself would not be accountable for the actions of its employees.

"At no point has the current minister of justice or the former minister of justice been directed or pressured by the prime minister or the Prime Minister's Office to make any decision on this or any other matter", Virani told the House of Commons on Friday. "Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me or anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter".

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer also suggested Friday morning that his party is looking at pursuing unspecified "legal avenues" if the governing Liberals "continue to cover this up". "The attorney general of Canada is the chief law officer of the Crown and provides legal advice to the government with the responsibility to act in the public interest". "However, it is quite appropriate for the Attorney General to consult with Cabinet colleagues before exercising his or her powers under the DPP Act in respect of any criminal proceedings", it says.

"Even more shocking, the prime minister may have fired her from her role as our country's first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general", said McLeod, the Conservative party's Indigenous Affairs critic. "MPs have a duty to determine what exactly happened here and Justin Trudeau and his office must be forthcoming".

"All this cries out for some serious investigation", Singh said in a telephone interview with the Canadian Press. The Ethics Commissioner should also investigate if Justin Trudeau was one of the recipients of the illegal donations.

That left her successor at Justice, Lametti, to fend off opposition charges on Thursday of political interference in the justice system.

When Wilson-Raybould pushed back, anonymous sources informed the Globe and Mail, she was effectively pushed out. He predicted "history will prove that she did the right thing".