OECD says 'concerned' by Canada prosecution meddling claims

Ottawa (AFP) –


An international bribery watchdog on Monday said it was "concerned" by accusations of political meddling in the prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin that have dogged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Group on Bribery said it has "sent a letter to the Canadian authorities confirming its concerns."

It added that it was "encouraged" by two independent probes by Canada's ethics commissioner and the House of Commons justice committee into the matter.

For weeks, Trudeau's government has been rocked by the accusations from his former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould of "consistent and sustained" political pressure to shield the company from a trial.

The prime minister addressed the allegations head-on last week, telling reporters in Ottawa that he had learned "lessons" from the crisis -- but denying any wrongdoing.

Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, which was charged with corruption over alleged bribes paid to secure contracts in Libya, had openly lobbied Ottawa for an out-of-court settlement that would result in a fine and agreeing to compliance measures, saying a conviction would lead to job losses.

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

She later testified to lawmakers, after resigning, that she had received "veiled threats" over her stance.

The OECD said the Anti-Bribery Convention, to which Canada was a founding member, "requires prosecutorial independence in foreign bribery cases."

"In addition, political factors such as a country?s national economic interest and the identity of the alleged perpetrators must not influence foreign bribery investigations and prosecution," it said.

Opposition leader Andrew Scheer, who has called on Trudeau to resign, commented on Twitter that "our allies are now flagging Canada for corrupt practices."