Judge rules SNC-Lavalin headed to trial on charges of fraud, corruption

Judge rules SNC-Lavalin headed to trial on charges of fraud, corruption
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MONTREAL — A Quebec judge has ruled there is enough evidence to send SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. to trial on charges of fraud and corruption.

The decision is the latest step in criminal proceedings that began last fall after the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant failed to secure a deferred prosecution agreement, a kind of plea deal that would have seen the firm agree to pay a fine rather than face prosecution.

“Given the threshold to be met by the prosecution at the stage of the preliminary inquiry, this outcome was expected,” said chief executive Neil Bruce in a statement.

The company has previously pleaded not guilty and Bruce said that “we will vigorously defend ourselves to get the right outcome and be acquitted.”

“SNC-Lavalin is a completely transformed company,” he added. “These charges relate to alleged wrongdoings that took place seven to 20 years ago by certain former employees who left the company long ago.”

Over the past four months, SNC-Lavalin has found itself in the centre of a political firestorm following accusations from former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould that top government officials pressured her to overrule federal prosecutors, who had opted not to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement with the company.

SNC-Lavalin and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have argued that a criminal trial could trigger the company’s exit to the United States and the loss of thousands of jobs.

The RCMP has accused SNC-Lavalin of paying $47.7 million in bribes to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011. The company, its construction division and a subsidiary also face one charge each of fraud and corruption for allegedly defrauding various Libyan organizations of $129.8 million.

The company is due back in court June 7 to choose a trial by jury or by judge alone. Prior to that, it can opt to apply within 30 days to the Superior Court of Quebec to have Wednesday’s lower court decision quashed.

Companies in this story: (TSX:SNC)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


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