SNC-Lavalin de­lays jury de­ci­sion in cor­rup­tion trial

The Prince George Citizen - - Money - Christophe­r REYNOLDS

MON­TREAL — SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. is push­ing back its de­ci­sion on whether to opt for a trial by jury or by judge alone in a cor­rup­tion case that has tripped up the en­gi­neer­ing gi­ant and en­snared it in a po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy for months.

“I need more time to make the choice. It has to be de­cided by sev­eral peo­ple in the com­pany,” de­fence lawyer Fran­cois Fon­taine told the Court of Quebec on Fri­day.

“Be­cause it’s an im­por­tant de­ci­sion,” he told reporters af­ter the morn­ing hear­ing.

“It’s a big com­pany.

“It’s nec­es­sary to take the time to an­a­lyze it care­fully.”

Last week a Quebec judge ruled there is enough evidence to send SNC-Lavalin to trial over charges of fraud and cor­rup­tion, prompt­ing a fur­ther tum­ble in the be­lea­guered firm’s share price.

The com­pany has pre­vi­ously pleaded not guilty to the crim­i­nal charges. SNC-Lavalin is due back in court June 28. The Mon­treal-based firm is ac­cused of pay­ing $47.7 mil­lion in bribes to pub­lic of­fi­cials in Libya be­tween 2001 and 2011.

SNC-Lavalin, its con­struc­tion divi­sion and a sub­sidiary also face one charge each of fraud and cor­rup­tion for al­legedly de­fraud­ing var­i­ous Libyan or­ga­ni­za­tions of $129.8 mil­lion.

The court hear­ing in Mon­treal on Fri­day was the lat­est step in crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings that 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 pros­e­cu­tion.

Since early Fe­bru­ary, SNC-Lavalin has been at the cen­tre of a po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy fol­low­ing ac­cu­sa­tions from former at­tor­ney gen­eral Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould that top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials pres­sured her to over­rule fed­eral prose­cu­tors and ne­go­ti­ate a de­ferred pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment with the com­pany.

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