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Trudeau under fire over interference allegations in fraud case

Trudeau under fire over interference allegations in fraud case

Officials in Trudeau's office tried to pressure Jody Wilson-Raybould into directing prosecutors to settle corruption charges against the Montreal-based construction and engineering company out of court, the Globe and Mail reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

The company, based in Canada's Quebec province, was charged with corruption and fraud in connection with payments of almost 36 million US 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.

As to whether Wilson-Raybould is truly bound to secrecy on this by solicitor-client privilege, as she insists she is, it is hard to say for certain without knowing exactly what she discussed with the Prime Minister's Office.

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.

"All we've heard are allegations in a newspaper", Lametti, who replaced Wilson-Raybould when she was shuffled into the Veterans' Affairs portfolio last month, told CTV's Question Period host Evan Solomon. In return, the attorney general bears responsibility for decisions taken, and can't shift it to cabinet.

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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.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau's response was carefully crafted and legally vetted. On the matter of issuing directives to the director of public prosecutions (or "DPP"), the document says: "It is appropriate for the attorney general to consult with cabinet colleagues before exercising his or her powers under the DPP Act in respect of any criminal proceedings, in order to fully assess the public policy considerations relevant to specific prosecutorial decisions".

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wants there to be an ethics investigation into the allegations and says if they're not true, like Trudeau said, then he has nothing to worry about.

Singh also pointed out that the demotion of Wilson-Raybould was met with anger from important stakeholders including the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

"Until we get answers we need to try every tool in the toolbox to try to pull those answers out of government", Cullen said. "This is not what we are seeing here", Mr. Scheer said.

Singh accused the government of sacrificing justice in the interests of a multinational corporation.

Neither Wilson-Raybould nor SNC-Lavalin has responded to questions from The Canadian Press about the story.

"Given the disturbing reports of political interference by the Prime Minister's Office in the functions of the Attorney General of Canada, and given the minister of Veterans Affairs recent comments that '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, the committee hold no fewer than four meetings", reads the motion.

In its October 19 submission to the Federal Court, SNC-Lavalin said while the public prosecutor has discretion to decide whether to open negotiations on a remediation agreement, this discretion "is not unfettered and must be exercised reasonably" under the law.

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