Trudeau denies report his office pressured attorney general to help SNC Lavalin [UPDATED]
Construction giant allegedly paid millions of dollars in bribes to get government business in Libya.
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is denying that his office told former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution.
The Quebec engineering and construction giant has been facing legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to get government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law.
As attorney general, Wilson-Raybould could have become involved in the case against the company by directing federal prosecutors to negotiate a “remediation agreement,” a way of undoing damage without admitting the company itself was at fault for things particular employees did.
The Globe and Mail newspaper reports that SNC-Lavalin repeatedly lobbied Justin Trudeau’s aides for a deal and that his office leaned on Wilson-Raybould to make it happen.
No remediation agreement was made and Wilson-Raybould was moved to the veterans affairs post in a January cabinet shuffle. Montrealer David Lametti took over as attorney general and justice minister.
During a visit to Vaughan, Ont., today, Trudeau said the allegations in the newspaper story “are false.”
“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,” he said.
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.
Neither Wilson-Raybould nor SNC-Lavalin has immediately responded to questions from The Canadian Press about the story.
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.
“Nothing short of full disclosure is acceptable. His carefully crafted and legally vetted answers today fall far short in this regard,” Scheer told reporters on Parliament Hill. “If he continues to fail to be transparent with Canadians, Conservatives will make every effort and explore every option to make sure Justin Trudeau and his office are held accountable.”