Globe: PMO pressured justice minister to help SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution
Globe: PMO pressured justice minister to help SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution
Jody Wilson Raybould
Adrian Wyld THE CANADIAN PRESS
10 February, 2019, 02:13
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.
Asked whether he or his office had applied any influence or pressure on the minister, Trudeau repeated that they had never directed Wilson-Raybould or Lametti to intervene.
The Conservatives and NDP are demanding investigations by a Commons committee and the federal ethics commissioner into allegations Wilson-Raybould was pressured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office.
However, Rankin was not optimistic that Wilson-Raybould would answer questions about the case, even if the committee votes in favour of a study, as she was shuffled out of the justice portfolio and named minister of veterans affairs last month, a move widely seen as a demotion.
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 Attorney General of Canada has the ability to become involved in cases such as the SNC-Lavalin case by instructing federal prosecutors to pursue a "remediation agreement" rather than a criminal prosecution.
SNC-Lavalin shares tumbled in October after prosecutors ruled out a negotiated settlement over past corruption charges. "Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me or by anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter".
Scheer says Conservatives on the House of Commons justice committee, along with the New Democrats, will also force an emergency meeting to consider a motion calling on nine high-ranking government officials to testify, including Wilson-Raybould herself.
Justice Minister David Lametti speaks during question period in the House of Commons on February 7, 2019.
The attorney general can give the director of public prosecutions directives on general issues and on individual cases, provided the directives are in writing and published in the Canada Gazette, the federal register. It would also mean the criminal prosecution against the company would not continue. The Ethics Commissioner should also investigate if Justin Trudeau was one of the recipients of the illegal donations.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the allegations suggest Trudeau demoted his attorney general for defying his orders and called on the prime minister to immediately come clean about what he knew, and when he knew it. "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, " he said in a telephone interview from Burnaby, where he is campaigning for a seat in the House of Commons in a February 25 byelection. "Tell us what happened, be transparent, invite the ethics commissioner to investigate and tell us that this is not the case or, if it is the case, then there's a serious reckoning that needs to happen".
SNC has previously been charged with bribery and corruption over its efforts to secure government business in Libya.
In a lengthy post about leaving the justice department that Wilson-Raybould made the day of the shuffle, she stated "it is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference and uphold the highest levels of public confidence". A spokesperson for the PMO said in a statement that Wilson-Raybould raised the SNC-Lavalin case with Butts, and he told her to speak with Michael Wernick, the clerk of the privy council.
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