Earlier today it was reported that the Prime Minister’s Office had allegedly attempted to pressure former Justice Minister Jody-Raybould to intervene in the corruption and fraud case against the Montreal construction company SNC-Lavalin.
The charges the company faces are over alleged bribes paid to Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011.
Wilson-Raybould reportedly did not succumb to the pressure. She said that she “did not believe it was proper for the attorney-general to intervene, especially if there could be any suggestion of political interference.”
Around the time Ms. Wilson-Raybould was allegedly pressured, “representatives of SNC-Lavalin met with federal government officials and parliamentarians more than 50 times on the topic of ‘justice’ and ‘law enforcement.’”
These meetings were attended by the principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Gerald Butts.
“Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me nor anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter.”
Now, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has responded to the allegations by unequivocally denying them. “The allegations in the Globe story this morning are false,” Trudeau told reporters.
“Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me nor anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter,” he continued.
Global News reports that he refused to give a detailed answer when asked by reporters about whether he or anyone on his team tried to “influence” the result of the case in a more general manner.
One reporter asked: “Was there any sort of influence whatsoever?”
Tudeau reported by saying that “at no time did we direct the attorney general, current or previous, to take any decision whatsoever in this matter.”
SNC Lavalin had reportedly lobbied the federal government to allow it to admit to wrongdoing and pay a fine rather than undergo the process of a “deferred prosecution agreement.” Neil Bruce, the president and CEO of the company had lobbied senior advisers in the PMO’s office during the relevant time, although it is only mentioned that the discussions were about “justice and law enforcement,” without any specifics.
“It is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference”
After allegedly being pressured, Ms. Wilson-Raybould penned a letter saying that the justice system needs to remain free from the perception of interference:
“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,”
“As such, it has always been my view that the attorney-general of Canada must be non-partisan, more transparent in the principles that are the basis of decisions, and, in this respect, always willing to speak truth to power. This is how I served throughout my tenure in that role.”
Opposition calls for “full disclosure” on the situation
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called for “full disclosure” from the government about the dealings between the PMO and SNC-Lavalin.
“Canadians deserve answers,” he said. “It sounded like those words [the Prime Minister’s] were written by a lawyer.”
“If there is 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. This is not what we are seeing here,” said Scheer.