Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied wrongdoing after he tried to shield one of the country’s biggest firms from a corruption trial.
The Canadian top leader said any lobbying by him or his inner circle for engineering giant SNC-Lavalin was done to protect jobs.
In explosive testimony, ex-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she faced “sustained” pressure to abandon prosecution of the Quebec-based firm.
Due to the testimony, Opposition Conservatives are calling on the Liberal PM to resign.
The group also demanding a public inquiry following Wilson-Raybould’s testimony on Wednesday before the Commons justice committee in Ottawa.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, PM Trudeau said he disagreed with her “characterisation” of events and maintained his staff followed the rules.
Meanwhile, speaking to journalists in Montreal on Thursday, the prime minster said he had full confidence in an inquiry by a parliamentary justice committee into the affair and in an investigation by the federal ethics commissioner, and would “participate fully” in that process.
Wilson-Raybould told the justice committee on Wednesday she faced had attempts at interference and “veiled threats” from top government officials seeking a legal favour for the Montreal construction firm.
The former justice minister and attorney general said she and her staff faced four months of a “sustained” and “inappropriate effort” to push for a possible deferred prosecution agreement for the construction company.
Furthermore, that agreement would have allowed the firm to avoid a criminal trial and instead agree to alternative terms or conditions, like penalties or enhanced compliance measures.
Wilson Raybould said that while some discussions about the ramifications of the decision were normal, the pressure went well beyond what was appropriate given her role as attorney general.
In Canada, an attorney general is supposed to act independently with respect of his or her prosecutorial function and decisions are not supposed to be politically motivated.
SNC-Lavalin is one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies and employs some 9,000 people in Canada.
A conviction on fraud and corruption charges could result in a decade-long ban on bidding on federal contracts, which would be a major financial hit for the firm.
Also, Trudeau said that to his knowledge no member of his staff has been contacted by the RCMP.