The SNC-Lavalin headquarters in Montreal, Canada, on February 28, 2019.
The SNC-Lavalin headquarters in Montreal, Canada, on February 28, 2019.

OTTAWA - Canada's opposition leader formally asked federal police on Thursday to investigate a claim of political meddling by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government in the criminal prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

The House of Commons scheduled an emergency debate Thursday on the deepening controversy, the most serious faced by Trudeau since assuming office in 2015.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer accused the Liberal prime minister's inner circle of possibly attempting to obstruct justice, in a letter to Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Brenda Lucki -- which the RCMP confirmed to AFP it has received.

"The matter at hand appears, on its face, to be a gross violation of the law," Scheer wrote.

He pointed to "explosive testimony" by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who told the House of Commons justice committee on Wednesday that Trudeau's staff and other senior officials applied undue pressure on her to settle a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin.

The Montreal-based company was charged in 2015 with corruption for allegedly bribing officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts during former strongman Moamer Kadhafi's reign.

Wilson-Raybould, after resigning from cabinet, testified that she experienced a "consistent and sustained effort" to politically interfere in the prosecution of one of the world's top engineering firms.

She added that she faced "veiled threats," and described the intense pressure on her to comply as "inappropriate," but stopped short of suggesting it was illegal.

In the end, Wilson-Raybould refused to ask prosecutors to settle, and the trial is set to proceed.

Trudeau has rejected her characterizations of events, saying Wednesday that he had made clear to his former attorney general that the "decision around SNC-Lavalin was Jody Wilson-Raybould's and hers alone to make."

Thursday morning, dodging calls to resign, he said: "My team and I have always acted in a professional manner."

"Canadians expect their government to look for ways to protect jobs, to grow the economy, and that's exactly what we've done every step of the way ... in a way that has respected our laws and respects the independence of the judiciary," he added.

For weeks, Trudeau's Liberal government has been rocked by the allegations first reported by The Globe and Mail newspaper, only eight months before elections.

Canada's ethics commissioner has launched an investigation into the matter.


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