SNC-Lavalin — the construction firm at the centre of a political affair that had rocked national politics and sent the ruling Liberals scrambling — will be tried on fraud and bribery charges, a judge in Quebec ruled on Wednesday.
The corporation had spent several months attempting to avoid heading to court for these very charges via a deferred prosecution agreement, or DPA, which allows a company to pay a fine instead of going to trial and risking being convicted.
The former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould accused the Prime Minister’s Office of pressuring her to utilize a DPA for SNC earlier this year, launching Ottawa into political chaos and sending teh ruling Liberals into a spiral in the polls.
The court’s decision followed an extended preliminary inquiry into accusations from Ottawa prosecutors in 2015, who allege SNC paid some $48 million in bribes to Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011, which is a violation of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
If SNC is found guilty in the trial, then it could face a 10-year ban on being awarded contracts from Ottawa. Neil Bruce, SNC’s chief executive, said such a ruling would “devastate” the corporation. The Canadian Press reports that the company has struggled since 2012 due to corruption scandals.
However, Bruce said Justice Claude Leblond’s ruling was expected, saying in a statement that the charges “relate to alleged wrongdoings that took place seven to 20 years ago by certain former employees who left the company long ago.”