Lavalin loses bid to negotiate agreement to avoid criminal trial

PM Trudeau has been accused of pressuring former attorney general Wilson Raybould to reach an out-of-court settlement with an engineering firm facing bribery and corruption charges

PM Trudeau has been accused of pressuring former attorney general Wilson Raybould to reach an out-of-court settlement with an engineering firm facing bribery and corruption charges

Wilson-Raybould had the power to scrap the decision to go to trial but decided against it.

She recalled an instance in which Trudeau expressed his concern to her about the potential for job layoffs if the company is found guilty of wrongdoing and asked if she could "help out". "As we now learn through this testimony, that was not the case", said Trudeau.

After handing in her resignation over the way the incident was handled, Wilson-Raybould claimed she received "veiled threats" and came under sustained pressure from Trudeau's staff.

Lametti has indicated in the past that this option is still on the table.

Trudeau meanwhile characterized the interactions as "conversations among colleagues about how to tackle a challenging issue", involving a possible loss of up to 9,000 Canadian jobs.

The Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin was charged with corruption several years ago for allegedly paying Can$47 million (US$36 million) in bribes between 2001 and 2011 to secure Libyan government contracts under the rule of Moamer Kadhafi, and of defrauding the Libyan government of Can$130 million.

The preliminary hearings in the case are ongoing. A judge is expected to rule soon on whether it should proceed to trial.

If that were to happen, the only path to avoid prosecution would be through Lametti, who as attorney general oversees the director of public prosecutions.

Under a 2018 federal law, prosecutors may negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement with corporate offenders.

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The company is now facing a 10-year ban on federal contracts after it was accused of bribing Libya's Gaddafi family with $36million (£27million) in return for contracts.

In a response filed last January with the court, the director of prosecutions said SNC-Lavalin's argument is "bereft of any possibility of success and should be struck". That could cost many jobs and damage the economy, particularly in Quebec. A letter to the company only said that after a "detailed review of all the material submitted", it was determined that a "remediation agreement is not appropriate in this case". "There was never any inappropriate pressure".

The Prime Minister's "good boy" image as the "perfect" liberal foil to Trump seems to be irreparably ruined regardless of the ultimate outcome of this scandal in spite of him conceding that there are "more questions to be answered" since it's now been revealed by his own Attorney General's testimony that questionable behavior was taking place at the highest levels of his administration.

Mr Trudeau said relations between his office and Ms Wilson-Raybould had clearly been fraying for months.

The law allows for remediation agreements and permits the attorney general to issue directives to the director of public prosecutions or even to take over a prosecution altogether.

"The law is clear that prosecutorial discretion is not subject to judicial review, except for abuse of process", Federal Court Justice Catherine Kane said in her ruling Friday.

"We need our federal government to focus on the big picture and, by doing that, they will realize that Albertans need their attention", the premier said.
One senior party member, who had previously voiced concerns, said Mr Trudeau had been right not to apologise. "That felt really nearly condescending".

Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from cabinet last month, accused Trudeau and his aides of pressuring her to drop a criminal investigation into the engineering and construction giant, citing fears that thousands of jobs would be put at risk and that such a move could also hurt the chances of Trudeau's Liberal Party in the upcoming federal election this year.

"The only reason to suggest to get an outside opinion is that she's wrong".

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