Political scandal deepens for Canada’s Justin Trudeau, who’s up for re-election this year

on Feb28
by | Comments Off on Political scandal deepens for Canada’s Justin Trudeau, who’s up for re-election this year |

A political firestorm surrounding Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became more damaging Wednesday, as his ex-justice minister accused his top aides of repeatedly pressuring her to drop the prosecution of a global engineering and construction firm.

The testimony delivered by Jody Wilson-Raybould to a parliamentary committee offered the most detailed version yet of events fueling a scandal that risks upending Trudeau’s re-election effort later this year. She said that between September and December, she and her staff had roughly 10 phone calls and 10 meetings about the matter involving SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. with Trudeau’s senior aides and other government officials, including staff from the finance minister’s office.

“I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” Wilson-Raybould said.

The former justice minister recounted how senior government officials, mostly from Trudeau’s office, attempted to persuade her to order prosecutors to cut a plea deal with SNC-Lavalin, which is based in the politically important province of Quebec. A plea deal would have allowed SNC-Lavalin to avoid a decadelong ban on bidding on government contracts in Canada and elsewhere. These make up a significant portion of the company’s revenue.

Trudeau and other senior officials have denied any wrongdoing in their interactions with the former justice minister. At a Wednesday night press conference in Montreal, the Canadian leader said he “completely disagree[s] with the former attorney general’s characterization of events” and defended the work of his top aides.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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