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  • SNC-Lavalin has benefited from at least $2-billion in loans from the Canadian government’s export agency over the past few years, according to data obtained by The Globe and Mail. Along with companies like Enbridge and Brookfield, it appears to be one of the top recipients of aid from Export Development Canada over the past 19 years.
  • The Quebec construction company is facing federal bribery charges related to its activities in Libya from 2001 to 2011. Allegations that Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister, was pressed by the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in that case led to her exit from cabinet earlier this week.
  • On Wednesday, Liberal MPs on the House justice committee rejected the opposition’s pleas to summon Ms. Wilson-Raybould and key PMO officials to testify about the SNC affair. The committee will still hold hearings on SNC, but only in broad terms, not focused on the alleged interference.
  • At the centre of the SNC scandal is the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, an agency whose independence was also being questioned at this week’s pretrial hearing of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. A lawyer for the vice-admiral, who is accused of leaking government secrets, told a judge that prosecutors discussed trial strategy with the Privy Council Office, which is “more concerning” than the SNC case. The PPSC issued a statement Tuesday reaffirming its independence and saying it hadn’t taken any instructions on the Norman case from the PCO.


SNC-Lavalin and Libya: A primer

SNC-Lavalin's Montreal headquarters.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

What is SNC-Lavalin? Based in Montreal, SNC-Lavalin is one of the world’s largest engineering firms, and has been involved in multibillion-dollar construction projects in more than 160 countries. In Canada, it’s responsible for things like Quebec’s James Bay hydroelectric project and the Canada Line transit system in Vancouver. But some of the company’s projects, and the methods allegedly used to obtain them, have gotten it into trouble: Allegations of bribery in Bangladesh got the company barred from World Bank-financed projects in 2013, and this year, a former SNC CEO pleaded guilty to breach of trust in the corruption scandal surrounding a Montreal hospital project.

Why does it matter so much? With nearly 9,000 employees in Canada and many more around the world, SNC has been a big breadwinner for the Quebec economy over the years. But that status is precarious: Its legal troubles, leadership changes and political hurdles to its business in Saudi Arabia have cost it billions in revenue and left it potentially vulnerable to foreign takeover. SNC is one of 10 companies the Quebec government has deemed strategically important to the province, and Premier François Legault has said he wants to prevent its headquarters from leaving Quebec. That makes the firm politically important to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau too: His Liberals’ re-election hopes in 2019 will hinge on Quebeckers’ support, and any threat to one of Quebec’s major employers could have dire consequences for his government.

SNC-Lavalin’s turbulent decade

As of Friday Feb 1, 2019

$65

5

60

1

2

3

4

55

50

45

40

35

30

25

20

‘09

‘10

‘11

‘12

‘13

‘14

‘15

‘16

‘17

‘18

March 6, 2009

SNC-Lavalin announces CEO Jacques Lamarre will step down after 13 years, relinquishing control to executive vice-president Pierre Duhaime. Duhaime was later arrested by police and, on Friday, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a bribery scandal related to the construction of a Montreal hospital.

1

Feb. 28, 2012

SNC-Lavalin says it is launching an investigation into inaccurate documentation of payments by its construction unit. It is later revealed that police are probing the matter in Switzerland and Canada.

2

Feb. 19, 2015

RCMP lays rare corruption and fraud charges against the company related to work in Libya.

3

Oct. 10, 2018

SNC-Lavalin says Canada’s Public Prosecution Service declined to enter into negotiations with the company on a deal that could suspend and eventually stay federal corruption and fraud charges against it.

4

Jan. 28, 2019

Profit warning, disclosure of trouble with a mining contract, and writedown of its oil and gas business related to uncertain future prospects in Saudi Arabia.

5

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: BLOOMBERG

SNC-Lavalin’s turbulent decade

As of Friday Feb 1, 2019

$65

5

60

1

2

3

4

55

50

45

40

35

30

25

20

‘09

‘10

‘11

‘12

‘13

‘14

‘15

‘16

‘17

‘18

March 6, 2009

SNC-Lavalin announces CEO Jacques Lamarre will step down after 13 years, relinquishing control to executive vice-president Pierre Duhaime. Duhaime was later arrested by police and, on Friday, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a bribery scandal related to the construction of a Montreal hospital.

1

Feb. 28, 2012

SNC-Lavalin says it is launching an investigation into inaccurate documentation of payments by its construction unit. It is later revealed that police are probing the matter in Switzerland and Canada.

2

Feb. 19, 2015

RCMP lays rare corruption and fraud charges against the company related to work in Libya.

3

Oct. 10, 2018

SNC-Lavalin says Canada’s Public Prosecution Service declined to enter into negotiations with the company on a deal that could suspend and eventually stay federal corruption and fraud charges against it.

4

Jan. 28, 2019

Profit warning, disclosure of trouble with a mining contract, and writedown of its oil and gas business related to uncertain future prospects in Saudi Arabia.

5

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: BLOOMBERG

SNC-Lavalin’s turbulent decade

As of Friday Feb 1, 2019

$65

5

60

1

2

3

4

55

50

45

40

35

30

25

20

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

March 6, 2009

SNC-Lavalin announces CEO Jacques Lamarre will step down after 13 years, relinquishing control to executive vice-president Pierre Duhaime. Duhaime was later arrested by police and, on Friday, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a bribery scandal related to the construction of a Montreal hospital.

1

Feb. 19, 2015

RCMP lays rare corruption and fraud charges against the company related to work in Libya.

3

Oct. 10, 2018

SNC-Lavalin says Canada’s Public Prosecution Service declined to enter into negotiations with the company on a deal that could suspend and eventually stay federal corruption and fraud charges against it.

4

Feb. 28, 2012

SNC-Lavalin says it is launching an investigation into inaccurate documentation of payments by its construction unit. It is later revealed that police are probing the matter in Switzerland and Canada.

2

Jan. 28, 2019

Profit warning, disclosure of trouble with a mining contract, and writedown of its oil and gas business related to uncertain future prospects in Saudi Arabia.

5

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: BLOOMBERG

What did it do in Libya? During the rule of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, SNC was involved in major public-work projects in the North African country, including a prison, an irrigation system and a new airport. In 2011, Swiss authorities and the RCMP began investigating claims that SNC had been bribing Libyan officials to get access to construction contracts. A former SNC executive vice-president, Riadh Ben Aissa, pleaded guilty in Switzerland to bribery and money-laundering in connection with SNC’s Libyan projects, which he admitted involved bribes to Mr. Gadhafi’s son, Saadi. SNC has admitted there was wrongdoing in Libya, but blames it on rogue employees who have since left the company, and says it has cleaned up its internal practices since then.

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Who is prosecuting the company? Federal prosecutors charged SNC in 2015 with attempted bribery and fraud over its activities in Libya from 2001 to 2011. SNC tried to strike a deal with the prosecutors, what’s called a “deferred prosecution agreement.” DPAs – an established practice in the United States and Britain, but introduced to Canada only last year through new corporate-crime legislation – let companies admit wrongdoing, pay compensation and, in exchange, avoid trials that might be more costly or damaging to their reputations. But in October, 2018, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada decided there would be no such deal. If convicted, SNC would be barred from federal government contracts for 10 years.

More reading on SNC-Lavalin

SNC-Lavalin’s CEO just can’t catch a break

From the archives: The inside story of SNC-Lavalin’s Gadhafi disaster

What happened to Jody Wilson-Raybould?

Jody Wilson-Raybould addresses the media after her swearing in as veterans affairs minister on Jan. 14, 2019.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Jody Wilson-Raybould was the federal justice minister for three years, the first Indigenous woman to hold that post. In January, 2019, Mr. Trudeau reassigned her to Veterans Affairs in a cabinet shuffle, giving the justice portfolio to David Lametti. She didn’t last long in the new job, quitting from cabinet on Feb. 12, though she said she’d continue to serve as MP for Vancouver-Granville.

In October, 2018, she had faced a crucial choice about the SNC case when the company lost its bid to have a deferred prosecution agreement. The Globe and Mail, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported on Feb. 7 that she had come under pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene and make the Public Prosecution Service of Canada reconsider a deal. The sources said she was unwilling to intervene because she trusted the public prosecutor’s judgment. Senior government officials later confirmed to The Globe that the SNC case had been discussed with Ms. Wilson-Raybould, but said “vigorous debate” within the PMO or between the PMO and ministers should not be considered the same as pressure for a minister to act a certain way.

So far, Ms. Wilson-Raybould has said she can’t comment on the details of the SNC-Lavalin case because she is bound by solicitor-client privilege. But in her Feb. 12 resignation letter (embedded below), she said she was seeking legal advice on what she could talk about and retained former Supreme Court of Canada justice Thomas Cromwell as her counsel. Opposition parties are pressing Mr. Trudeau’s government to release her from that obligation and let her address the matter publicly.

Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Kwakwaka’wakw name is Puglaas, given to her as a child by her grandmother. In the Kwak’wala language, Puglaas means “a woman born to noble people.” Ms. Wilson-Raybould is a descendant of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach peoples, which are part of Kwakwaka’wakw, the traditional inhabitants of northern Vancouver Island.

What is the Public Prosecution Service of Canada?

At the heart of the SNC-Lavalin controversy is the PPSC, an independent agency that oversees federal prosecutions and looks into violations of the Canada Elections Act. Within that mandate, the PPSC’s director, called the Director of Public Proseuctions, essentially acts as the attorney-general’s deputy (though there is also a deputy justice minister in the House of Commons, currently Nathalie Drouin). The justice minister can’t give the DPP orders on election matters, but in any other kind of case, the minister can issue directives to them or even take charge of prosecutions. So in the SNC case, it would be within the justice minister’s power to ask the DPP to reach a settlement even if they had previously decided not to. And this could still happen: Mr. Lametti said on Feb. 10 that it’s still possible he could push for an out-of-court settlement.

But the agency’s role as an instrument of justice depends on the appearance of impartiality and independence from government, and SNC isn’t the only case calling that into question. At a pretrial hearing for Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, accused of leaking government secrets to influence a cabinet decision on a shipbuilding contract, his defence lawyer has alleged that Crown prosecutors discussed trial strategy with the Privy Council Office, an arm of the public service that supports the Prime Minister and cabinet’s decisions. Vice-Adm. Norman’s lawyer called those allegations “more concerning” than the SNC case because “the attorney-general is entirely bypassed. The Prime Minister’s Office, via its right arm the PCO, is dealing directly with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. And the prosecution service is allowing this to happen.”

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On Feb. 12, the PPSC issued a statement clarifying its independent role and communications with the PCO, saying the agency “has not sought or received instructions in respect of the prosecution of Mr. Norman from the Privy Council Office or any other government department or body.”

Who’s who in the federal government

Elected

Appointed

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister

David Lametti

Justice Minister

It is made up of the PM and the PM’s top political staff, who advise the PM.

Oversees Canada's justice system. Helps the federal government to develop policy and to draft and reform laws as needed.

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Public

Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)

Supports the PM and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions.

Prosecutes federal offences and provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement.

Michael Wernick

Clerk of the

Privy Council

Kathleen Roussel

Director of Public

Prosecutions

MURAT YUKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Who’s who in the federal government

Elected

Appointed

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister

David Lametti

Justice Minister

It is made up of the PM and the PM’s top political staff, who advise the PM.

Oversees Canada's justice system. Helps the federal government to develop policy and to draft and reform laws as needed.

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Public

Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)

Supports the PM and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions.

Prosecutes federal offences and provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement.

Michael Wernick

Clerk of the

Privy Council

Kathleen Roussel

Director of Public

Prosecutions

MURAT YUKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Who’s who in the federal government

Elected

Appointed

It is made up of the PM and the PM’s top political staff, who advise the PM.

Oversees Canada's justice system. Helps the federal government to develop policy and to draft and reform laws as needed.

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Michael Wernick

Clerk of the

Privy Council

David Lametti

Justice Minister

Public

Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)

Supports the PM and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, it helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions.

Prosecutes federal offences and provides legal advice and assistance to law enforcement.

Kathleen Roussel

Director of Public Prosecutions

MURAT YUKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

‘Directed’ vs. ‘pressed’ vs. ‘discussed’

Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denies on Feb. 7 that his office 'directed' Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution.

The day The Globe’s original story broke, both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mr. Lametti denied the reported allegations. But the wording of those denials is important. Here’s what Mr. Trudeau said, speaking at a news conference on transit funding in Vaughan, Ont., on Feb. 7:

The allegations reported in the story are false. At no time did I or my office direct the current or previous attorney-general to make any particular decision in this matter.

Asked whether the PMO exerted any influence, he focused again on the word “direct”:

As I’ve said, at no time did we direct the attorney-general, current or previous, to make any decision whatsoever in this matter.

The Globe never reported that Mr. Trudeau had directed Ms. Wilson-Raybould to act, only that she was pressed to intervene and declined. On Feb. 7, Mr. Lametti did deny that he or Ms. Wilson-Raybould had been pressed on SNC:

As the Prime Minister said earlier today, neither the Prime Minister nor his office put my predecessor or myself under pressure nor gave any directives.

An even more sweeping denial came on Feb. 8 from Mr. Lametti’s parliamentary secretary, Arif Virani, in the House of Commons:

Mr. Speaker, at no point has the current Minister of Justice or the former minister of justice been directed or pressured by the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office to make any decision on this or any other matter. The attorney-general of Canada is the chief law officer of the Crown and provides legal advice to the government with the responsibility to act in the public interest. He takes those responsibilities very seriously.

Then at a Vancouver news conference on Feb. 11, Mr. Trudeau acknowledged that he had discussed the SNC-Lavalin matter with Ms. Wilson-Raybould last fall, but did not address the allegations that she was pressured. Instead, he said he had met twice with Ms. Wilson-Raybould in Vancouver in recent days, and that:

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She confirmed for me a conversation we had this fall where I told her directly that any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone.

The reaction so far

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer rises during Question Period on Feb. 7, 2019.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Opposition: The federal opposition parties have pressed the Liberals for “full disclosure” about the SNC matter. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wrote Mr. Trudeau an open letter on Feb. 10 asking him to waive Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s solicitor-client privilege. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also made a statement on Feb. 10 calling on transparency: “Canadians want the whole truth, and so I’m asking Mr. Trudeau to waive his government’s solicitor-client privilege regarding SNC-Lavalin.”

SNC-Lavalin: CEO Neil Bruce told The Globe he was unaware of any political pressure related to their DPA request, and didn’t comment on how Mr. Lametti would handle the file as justice minister.

Analysis and commentary

Lori Turnbull: Wilson-Raybould’s resignation is an off-brand, disastrous narrative for the Liberals

Barrie McKenna: SNC-Lavalin scandal exposes flaws in Canada’s anti-corruption defences

Gary Mason: A minister's resignation, a Prime Minister's dimming fortunes

Errol Mendes: As the SNC-Lavalin storm rages on, is prosecutorial independence at risk?

Konrad Yakabuski: There's nothing sinister in wanting to spare SNC-Lavalin

Editorial: On SNC-Lavalin, Justin Trudeau’s silence isn’t going to help

John Ibbitson: If Trudeau doesn’t address the SNC-Lavalin affair soon, the fallout could cost him an election

Sandy White: SNC-Lavalin affair shows some companies are more equal than others

Jennifer Quaid and Emilie Taman: The SNC-Lavalin revelations, if true, show we are not a country bound by the rule of law

Campbell Clark: Trudeau chooses not to be clear on what happened with SNC-Lavalin

Readers’ views: From the comments

Is Trudeau’s management style the problem in the SNC-Lavalin case, or is the nature of modern politics to blame? Readers discuss

Should SNC-Lavalin be spared a trial on corruption charges? Readers debate the merits of remediation

‘A two-tier justice system.’ Readers react to PMO pressure in SNC-Lavalin corruption case

Compiled by Globe staff

With reports from Robert Fife, Steven Chase, Sean Fine, Paul Waldie and The Canadian Press

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