The SNC-Lavalin Group headquarters seen in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Reuters
MONTREAL: SNC Lavalin Group’s chief executive said on Friday the company is looking at ways to protect its business in the event it loses a corruption trial that has created a political crisis for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
An SNC-Lavalin board subcommittee is weighing the construction and engineering company’s options as it takes “steps to minimize the effect of any potential sort of bad outcome in a few years’ time,” chief executive Neil Bruce told Reuters in an interview. Trudeau has been on the defensive since Feb. 7 over allegations that top officials working for him leaned on former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould last year to ensure that the construction company avoided a corruption trial. Trudeau has denied the allegations.
At the affair’s centre is a request by SNC-Lavalin for a remediation agreement that would have enabled it to avoid a court case which, if lost, would block it from federal government contracts for a decade. SNC-Lavalin is facing fraud and corruption charges related to allegations that former executives paid bribes to win contracts in Libya under Muammer Gaddafi’s regime, which fell in 2011. Bruce said SNC is now focused on defending itself in court, with little expectation that a remediation would become available. Any court decision which would likely be years away. “We don’t want to be reacting too late or not early enough if the worst came to the worst,” he said. “We’ve got to be prudent and make sure that we position the company.” Being blocked from federal contracts would raise the threat of job cuts among the company’s Canadian workforce of 9,000. “If we were in a position where for whatever reason we couldn’t do work with a certain customer or in a certain country then we would plan all of that and make sure that our business development efforts and the work.