Globe: PMO pressured justice minister to help SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied a potentially incendiary allegation that his office told former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution.

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.

In a brief statement to the media, Wilson-Raybould - who is now the Veterans Affairs Minister - says she can't discuss the matter because she is bound by solicitor-client privilege.

Trudeau has called the allegation false, saying nobody in his office gave direction on the case to Wilson-Raybould.

"If the prime minister has nothing to hide, as he has suggested, then he should have no reason to fear these individuals appearing before the justice committee", Scheer said in a Friday morning news conference on Parliament Hill. "MPs have a duty to determine what exactly happened here and Justin Trudeau and his office must be forthcoming".

The PMO and Lametti's office say they haven't contacted by the police, while Wilson-Raybould declined to comment.

"All this cries out for some serious investigation", Singh said in a telephone interview with the Canadian Press.

David Young the former Attorney General of Ontario during the Progressive Conservative Harris government has now openly called for an investigation into the SNC-Lavalin scandal which has plagued the Trudeau government for the past few days.

"At no point has the current minister of justice, or the former minister of justice, been pressured or directed", Arif Virani said.

Last October, Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions, informed SNC-Lavalin that negotiating a remediation agreement would be inappropriate in this particular case.

The company unsuccessfully pressed the director of prosecutions to negotiate a "remediation agreement", a legal means of holding an organization to account for wrongdoing without a formal finding of guilt.

Meanwhile, the NDP is also calling for the ethics commissioner to investigate the allegations, as is Ottawa-based ethics watchdog Democracy Watch.

"If he truly wants to clear this up and believes there's been no wrongdoing, he should welcome an investigation from the ethics commissioner".

He said what has transpired with the SNC Lavalin prosecution and efforts by the company to reach a negotiated settlement should be made public for Canadians.

McLeod said MPs were "puzzled" when Trudeau shuffled Wilson-Raybould to Veterans Affairs.

"If there is any going to be any discussion from very high levels in the government to grant an exemption ... to a company when we are talking about very serious criminal prosecutions, that must be done with full transparency".

CTV News has asked Jody Wilson-Raybould for comment on the story and her office said she will not be commenting today.

"Messing with the administration of justice is not just bad politics". If either the PMO or Wilson-Raybould had tried to direct the prosecutor's office without making that instruction public, that would violate the law.

"The allegations that we are hearing in the last 24 hours are unprecedented", Scheer said.

However, the fact that such directives must be done publicly would seem to constrain a justice minister from doing anything overtly political.