February 11, 2019
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s independent ethics commissioner said on Monday he was probing allegations that the office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have improperly tried last year to help construction company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid criminal trial.
Mario Dion made the announcement in a letter he sent to two opposition legislators who had asked him to look into a newspaper report that Trudeau officials had put pressure on then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to go easy on the firm.
Although Dion’s office has only limited powers to sanction wrongdoing, the probe shows the affair may become more problematic for Trudeau as he prepares for a close-run re-election bid this October.
Trudeau last week denied his office had tried to pressure Wilson-Raybould to make a deal with the company to avoid a trial. SNC-Lavalin is facing fraud and corruption charges linked to allegations that former executives paid bribes to win Libyan contracts under Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, which fell in 2011.
Dion said he had reason to believe someone may have broken rules that forbid officials “from seeking to influence a decision of another person so as to improperly further” the interests of a third party.
Wilson-Raybould was unexpectedly shuffled out of her role last month and given the more junior post of veterans’ affairs minister.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)