The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which oversees the implementation of an international anti-corruption convention, is concerned by allegations of political interference in SNC-Lavalin.
In a statement issued on Monday, the OECD said it will monitor the situation closely, since Canada “has committed to fully comply with the provisions of the Convention, which enshrines the independence of prosecutions in corruption cases. transnational, by virtue of Article 5 “.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his office are suspected of exerting undue and persistent pressure on former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to have the Montreal-based engineering firm avoid a corruption and fraud lawsuit by entering into a repair agreement (or “suspended prosecution agreement”).
SNC-Lavalin is accused of bribing the Libyan authorities between 2001 and 2011 to win a $ 58 million contract.
Canada is one of the 44 signatories to the Anti-Bribery Convention, which is legally binding. This sets international standards for criminalizing bribery of foreign agents. The goal was for all signatories – the 36 OECD countries and eight others, including Russia and Brazil – to punish their own citizens and companies who try to bribe other governments.
The OECD Working Group on Corruption is responsible for overseeing the implementation and application of the Convention. He wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office to express his concern about the SNC-Lavalin file and to inform him that he would closely follow the investigations of the House of Commons Justice Committee and the Ethics Commissioner.
Canada will follow up
According to the news release, Canada committed to follow-up with the organization at the working group meeting in June. “(…) Canada has committed to fully comply with the provisions of the Convention, which establishes the independence of prosecutions in cases of transnational bribery under Article 5,” the organization wrote.
“In addition, political considerations such as the national economic interest of a country or the identity of the alleged perpetrators must not influence the investigation and prosecution of foreign bribery cases.”
Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said the Trudeau government “strongly supported” the OECD and recalled that Canada was one of the instigators of the Anti-Corruption Convention. “We recognize the concerns expressed today by the OECD Working Group on Corruption,” he said in a written statement.
“We will continue to work with the task force and follow up on the robust and independent processes currently in place in Canada, which the task force has recognized and welcomed.”
Prosecution agreements suspended in Canada
Last year, the Liberals introduced new legislation allowing the Director of Public Prosecutions to use what is known internationally as “suspended prosecution agreements”.
These agreements suspend criminal prosecution, provided that the company admits its wrongdoings, pays fines, remits any money received as part of its crime, and agrees to be monitored for a period of time. If the company complies with the terms of the agreement, the criminal penalties may be removed. But if the company does not hold its share of the market, the charges can still move forward.
Last fall, the Director of Public Prosecutions of Canada ruled that SNC-Lavalin was not eligible for such an agreement. M me Wilson-Raybould, then Attorney General, had decided not to use its discretion to overturn this decision.
According to the former Attorney General, several members of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Office of the Minister of Finance and the Privy Council Office then put undue and constant pressure on her to allow SNC-Lavalin to enter into an agreement. suspended pursuit.
She believes that her refusal to reverse this decision explains her demotion to Cabinet, when she went from Attorney General and Minister of Justice to the position of Minister of Veterans Affairs during the reshuffle last January. M me Wilson-Raybould had finally resigned a few days after the allegations of undue pressure had been revealed by an article in the Globe and Mail.
Treasury Board President Jane Philpott followed suit last week, saying she had lost confidence in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the issue.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s Principal Secretary Gerald Butts also resigned on February 18. Last week, before the justice committee, Mr. Butts said he did not resign because he had something to blame himself for – if he had stayed, it might have seemed like Mr. Trudeau had chosen him, as a good friend, rather than the minister.
Mr. Trudeau and his employees deny having done anything improper and argue that they simply wanted to ensure that the minister had all the information needed to make an informed decision. The Prime Minister’s Office insisted on the impact of a lawsuit for jobs in Canada, and called for an external opinion on suspended prosecution agreements, which had just been added to Canadian criminal law.
Last week, Trudeau explained the controversy with an “erosion of trust” between his office and former Minister Wilson-Raybould. He committed to hiring external experts to advise the government on the interactions between political and public service employees in court files.