According to Democracy Watch, top Liberal officials supposedly pressured then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to end the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin in 2018. Though media reports initially claimed the RCMP began investigating the matter, the federal police force clarified no investigation is ongoing.
A May 25 letter from the RCMP discussed obstruction of justice allegations against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Finance Minister Bill Morneau, some members of their staff, and former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.
The allegations stem from bribery and fraud charges against SNC-Lavalin over giving millions to the son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi for helping the company secure lucrative construction projects.
SNC-Lavalin Construction paid $127 million to two shell companies between 2001 and 2011, according to an agreed statement of facts. About $47 million of that money went to Saadi Gadhafi.
Democracy Watch received a 96-page document with the letter from the RCMP as part of an access to information they filed last July 27. Of that, the federal police force fully redacted 86 pages because “this matter is currently under investigation.”
Only a 5-page February 2021 letter to the RCMP is unredacted. Four pages are fully redacted because they are “not relevant” and one page because it is “redundant.”
This is the first public statement by the RCMP on the allegations since August 14, 2019, when it commenced their inquiry into the matter.
On September 10, 2019, the Globe and Mail reported that Ian Shugart, then-Clerk of the Privy Council, had refused to waive Cabinet confidence to allow government witnesses to provide full information to the RCMP.
Then Justice Department spokesman Ian McLeod said not offering a broader waiver for the RCMP “was made solely by the Clerk of the Privy Council as guardian of cabinet confidences.” Trudeau’s then director of communications, Cameron Ahmad, said Justice did not involve the PMO in the decision.
However, then Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion faced the same obstacle as the RCMP in his investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair. According to his final report, nine witnesses could not provide full testimony owing to the limited waiver on cabinet secrecy.
Dion ultimately found that Trudeau and some top officials breached the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring Wilson-Raybould on bribery and fraud charges against SNC-Lavalin.
According to sources within the RCMP, the police force put their examination on hold during the 2019 federal election campaign. On September 11, Wilson-Raybould stated publicly that the RCMP interviewed her about the actions of the prime minister and others, as reported by the Globe.
“Of course I am concerned about the government’s decision to deny [the RCMP’s] request for access to other witnesses. As a matter of principle, the RCMP should be able to conduct thorough and necessary investigations,” she said.
“I believe the public deserves to know and to have full knowledge of this matter.”
In December 2019, the company received a $280 million fine and three years of probation after being convicted of fraud. The judge presiding over the case dropped five other fraud and corruption charges filed against the company and its subsidiaries.
“More than four years have passed since the situation [became] public and almost four years since the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling finding that Prime Minister Trudeau violated the federal ethics law pressuring the Attorney General,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.
“It is difficult to believe the investigation has not been completed, and it raises many questions for the RCMP to answer,” he said.
Democracy Watch has since inquired the RCMP about negotiations with the PMO to disclose Cabinet confidences, timelines for the investigation, and whether they would issue a full public disclosure upon its conclusion.
The organization sent a letter to the RCMP in February 2021 outlining their questions. However, the RCMP did not respond.
On June 1, 2022, Democracy Watch sent a second letter to the RCMP again setting out the grounds for prosecuting, and again calling for a full, public update, and requesting disclosure of records under the Access to Information Act (ATIA).
They filed the ATIA request after the RCMP disclosed documents in spring 2022 under the ATIA explaining its decisions concerning the investigation into the Trudeau family’s trip to Aga Khan’s island while prime minister.
“Are the RCMP and prosecutors waiting for a third federal election to pass?” posed Conacher. “What often happens in Canada when powerful politicians and government officials are involved in alleged illegal activities [are considerable] delays with the hope they can eventually bury the results of the investigation.”