Canada: Ex-minister releases secret Trudeau recording | News | DW | 30.03.2019
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Canada: Ex-minister releases secret Trudeau recording

Documentary evidence appears to support the former justice minister's account of political interference in the SNC-Lavalin corruption case. The scandal has threatened PM Trudeau's chances of re-election in October.

Canada's former justice minister released documents to support her claim that she had been pressured by the government to shield a company from criminal prosecution.

The 43 pages of documents released publicly on Friday are likely to heighten pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as his poll numbers slip ahead of elections in October.

Read more: Transparency International: 'Crisis of democracy' and corruption go hand in hand

Trudeau has been accused of inappropriately leaning on former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to seek penalties instead of criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

The Canadian engineering firm was charged in 2015 with allegedly paying bribes to win contracts in Libya. A criminal conviction would block the company from receiving Canadian government contracts and put 9,000 jobs at risk.

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The brewing scandal has led to the resignation of two Cabinet ministers — including Wilson-Raybould — as well as the departure Trudeau's senior aide Gerry Butts and Canada's top bureaucrat Michael Wernick since February.

Trudeau has said he made mistakes but denies any improper interference in the judiciary.

Last month, Wilson-Raybould told lawmakers that she had faced "consistent and sustained" political pressure to intervene in SNC-Lavalin case, including receiving "veiled threats" about her job.

She was demoted from the post of justice minister and attorney general in a January Cabinet reshuffle, and quit the Cabinet a month later.

Secret recording released

The documents made public include an 18-minute secret audio recording of a December phone call between Wilson-Raybould and Clerk of the Privy Council Wernick about the SNC-Lavin case that appears to support her allegations.

On the tape, Wernick told Wilson-Raybould that the prime minister "is determined, quite firm," in avoiding criminal prosecution of "a signature Canadian firm" that could threaten thousands of jobs.

"The PM wants to be able to say that he has tried everything he can within a legitimate toolbox to try to head that off," he said. "He is quite determined."

"I think he's going to find a way to get it done one way or another."

He went on to say that he is "a bit worried" that the prime minister and attorney general are at "loggerheads."

Wilson-Raybould told Wernick that the conversation is "entirely inappropriate and it is political interference." She also warned that the government is on "dangerous ground" intervening in the case.

In a written submission to Parliament's justice committee, Wilson-Raybould said she took the "extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step" of secretly recording the call with Wernick because she wanted an exact account of the conversation in case it crossed ethnical lines.

"This is something that I have never done before this phone call and have not done since," she wrote.

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Trouble ahead of elections

The SNC-Lavin scandal has opened up divisions within Trudeau's Liberals, with several MPs calling for Wilson-Raybould to be expelled from the caucus.

The opposition, meanwhile, has called for an inquiry and demanded Trudeau resign.

"The prime minister has lost the moral authority to govern and must resign," Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said in a statement.

cw/aw (AP, Reuters)

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