Judge mulls whether SNC-Lavalin to face trial as preliminary inquiry ends
The SNC-Lavalin headquarters is seen in Montreal on February 12, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Paul Chiasson)
MONTREAL -- The preliminary hearing on criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. wrapped up Monday, leaving a judge to weigh whether there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.
The court of Quebec hearing, which is subject to a publication ban, relates to fraud and corruption charges against the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant.
The proceedings began last fall after SNC-Lavalin 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 a trial.
Over the past two months, SNC has found itself in the eye 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.
Both 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 nearly $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 about $129.8 million.
If the case proceeds, the company could choose a trial by jury or by judge alone, said prosecutor Richard Roy at the Montreal courthouse Monday.
"We've already argued that the company should be committed to trial, and we stand by arguments," he said.
The judge has reserved his decision, with a court date set for May 29.