(Bloomberg) – Canada’s ethics watchdog is investigating whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke the rules and lobbied his former attorney general to help SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. resolve charges of outside corruption. courts.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion confirmed his investigation Monday in a letter to two lawmakers from the New Democratic Party. Dion said he would investigate whether Trudeau violated a section of the Conflict of Interest Act that prohibits “a public official from seeking to influence another person’s decision to improperly promote another person’s private interests.”
The investigation comes as Trudeau’s new attorney general and attorney general David Lametti notes that he may still be able to ultimately intervene in the case of the Montreal engineering and construction giant. The brewing scandal has directly implicated Trudeau, who is seeking a second term from voters this fall.
Lametti replaced Jody Wilson-Raybould, whom Trudeau’s office allegedly pressured to seek an out-of-court settlement, according to a report last week in the Globe and Mail newspaper citing unidentified sources. The prime minister said Thursday that he never “led” anyone in the SNC-Lavalin case. The House of Commons justice committee will hold a meeting this week to decide whether to investigate the matter as well.
Speaking Monday before the Canadian Bar Association in Ottawa, Lametti declined to comment on the details of the case. However, he noted that Canada combines the role of its attorney general and attorney general, with the latter considering himself less political but still on top of the cabinet table talks.
“These discussions can improve the quality of decision-making,” Lametti said. “But there is a line that cannot be crossed. Telling the attorney general what a decision should be, that would be interference. And at the end of the day, I stick to the long-standing principle that when I act as attorney general, I will apply my judicial mind to a decision, and not my political mind. “
Lametti was asked in an interview with CTV’s Question Period a day earlier if he could order prosecutors to give SNC-Lavalin a so-called remediation agreement, as he has been seeking.
“As a final step, it could issue a directive, but the Public Ministry is an independent service,” he told CTV. “They can operate independently, that’s part of our rule of law system, and the director has done that in this case.”
SNC-Lavalin has long lobbied for a negotiated settlement in the case, which dates back to 2012 and has cost the company at least C $ 5 billion ($ 3.8 billion) in lost revenue, said the CEO Neil Bruce in December. Preliminary hearings are still ongoing, SNC spokeswoman Daniela Pizzuto said Monday, declining to say whether or when a criminal trial would begin.
The political controversy comes at an inopportune moment for the signature. It issued an earnings warning Monday for the second time in two weeks after failing to settle a dispute with a client at a Latin American mining project. The shares fell 4.8 percent to C $ 34.94 in Toronto, after falling 28 percent, the most in at least 27 years, on the initial warning in January.
Lametti, who represents a Montreal district, echoed Trudeau’s denials in the case to CTV, saying “there has been no pressure, and there has been no direction” for him regarding SNC-Lavalin. “Once again, all we have heard are accusations in a newspaper. The prime minister has said that these accusations are false. “
The justice committee will meet on Wednesday “to study reports of political interference in a criminal proceeding by the prime minister’s office.” While the ruling Liberal Party has a majority on the committee, its chairman intends to “independently determine whether the committee’s study of the issue will be helpful to Canadians.” In a message on Twitter, legislator Anthony Housefather added: “No one has tried to influence me.”
(Updates with the launch of ethical research at all times).