Will he or won’t he?: Lametti plays coy on SNC-Lavalin decision
SNC-Lavalin is taking a second crack the Director of Public Prosecution’s decision to deny the Québec firm a remediation deal and on Friday filed its challenge with the Federal Court of Appeal.
A month ago, Federal court Justice Catherine Kane tossed the Québec firm’s first try and noted in her decision the importance of the public prosecutor “as the delegate of the Attorney General, from the common law, not a federal statute,” or as the public prosecutor argued not just a “federal board, commission or another tribunal’.”
The company is at the centre of a political scandal dogging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, in which ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould has implicated key officials in the PMO, including the Trudeau, for pressuring her to intervene in SNC’s trial for alleged bribery and fraud in Libya between 2001 and 2011.
Her replacement David Lametti has said in interviews that a deferred prosecution agreement remains an option.
On Thursday, under a cloud of media leaks that Wilson-Raybould set conditions for her shuffle to Veterans Affairs in January: that her successor would not cut a deal with SNC, Lametti got to address both the purported leaks and whether he is Trudeau’s yes-man.
“I didn’t even know about (the conversation) … if it, in fact, existed,” Lametti claimed before national media on Parliament Hill. “The prime minister has never tried to direct me. If someone else tries to direct me then they’ll hear about it.”
According to Wilson-Raybould, her failure to act on the September 2018 decision by the public prosecutor provoked multiple overtures for her to intervene, by multiple people within Trudeau’s inner circle – senior staff in the PMO and Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his chief-of-staff.
After a February 7 Globe and Mail made public what had been simmering behind the scenes for almost five months, Trudeau has been beset with a crisis that has consumed four senior loyalists.
All resigned from prominent roles, including Trudeau’s top adivsior, the top bureaucrat and culminating in Trudeau’s nationally televised caucus excommunication of Wilson-Raybould and her colleague and confident Jane Philpott, whose last cabinet post was Treasury Board president.
Philpott got the axe for supporting Wilson-Raybould and was the author of her own destiny after giving an interview with Maclean’s suggesting there was much more to the story than already in the public domain.
In the media hot seat over his intentions with SNC-Lavalin, Lametti capped his remarks with ambiguity to reporters this week.
“We are still in a period where we could have appeals on the judicial review decision and therefore the trial continues,” said Lametti, who as attorney general can intervene on the DPA front at any stage in the company’s prosecution.
Yesterday’s federal court filing by the company only delayed the pending criminal trial.
“As long as the trial continues … anything I could say is going to be hyper-scrutinized and that could have an impact on the litigation,” said Lametti.
SNC-Lavalin’s legal troubles in Canada began in 2012 after Swiss police arrested the company’s global construction boss Riadh Ben Aissa, who later spent two years imprisoned in Switzerland before pleading guilty to money laundering and surrendering an alleged $47 million in proceeds related to dealings with Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
This cleared the way for extradition to Canada and charges levelled in 2015 against Ben Aissa, who cut a plea deal last summer related to charges filed in 2015 following RCMP raids on corporate headquarters in Montréal. In July of 2018, he was sentenced to 51 months in prison for forging documents, one of 15 indictments he faced.
A second SNC excutive, Stephan Roy, had his charges thrown out in February on grounds the courts had taken too long to hear his case. According to the RCMP’s affidavit, Roy’s fraud and bribery charges were connected to Ben Aissa’s scheme to smuggle Gaddafi’s son out of Libya as civil war hastened by the Arab Spring protests eventually collapsed the family’s regime in 2011.