Power & Politics

Wilson-Raybould's SNC-Lavalin claims set 'all alarms sounding' at OECD: spokesman

The chair of the OECD's Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions said today Jody-Wilson Raybould's testimony on SNC-Lavalin compelled the group to speak out on allegations of political interference in the criminal case against the Quebec engineering firm.

Drago Kos says Canada will still have to explain itself to the OECD

Jody Wilson Raybould delivers her opening statement as she appears at the Justice committee meeting in Ottawa, Wednesday February 27, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press )

The chair of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's Working Group on Bribery said today Jody-Wilson Raybould's testimony on SNC-Lavalin compelled the group to speak out on allegations of political interference in the criminal case against the Quebec engineering firm.

"Allegations which were expressed there immediately raised all alarms sounding in the working group on bribery and that's why we started the debate," said Drago Kos in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Wednesday.

Speaking before the House justice committee on February 27, Jody Wilson-Raybould alleged that, as attorney general, she faced "consistent and sustained" pressure from senior people in the Trudeau government to interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. The Canadian company was charged in 2015 with allegedly bribing Libyan officials.

On Monday, the OECD released a statement saying that it would be watching the SNC-Lavalin affair closely.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, have insisted they exerted no inappropriate pressure on Wilson-Raybould. Trudeau has acknowleged, however, that he asked her to "revisit" her decision to not negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin that would have allowed it to avoid a trial, saying he was concerned about the loss of 9,000 jobs that might follow the company going under.

Pointing to article 5 in OECD's Anti-Bribery Convention, Kos said national economic interest is not something the prosecution should consider when deciding whether to proceed to trial.

"I think we would all agree that only the merits of the case should be taken into consideration and nothing else," he said.

Kos said the working group is waiting to see the results of investigations by the House justice committee and the ethics commissioner — but Canada will still have to answer for these allegations before the OECD.

"It will not be just decisions of both of your committees," said Kos.

The OECD has sent Canada a letter outlining its concerns.

Kos said Canada will face a 'phase four' OECD review — an evaluation of Canada's compliance with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention by experts from two member countries and the secretariat of the working group. Canada will be expected to reply to the report within 24 months, offering its response to the OECD's observations and recommendations.

"This does not go very quick," said Kos. He didn't detail possible consequences for Canada in the event its response to the phase four report is found wanting, beyond saying that the OECD would want to see "measures" introduced that would prevent political interference with prosecutions.

The OECD working group is scheduled to meet in June. Kos said he expects Canada to report to the working group on any new developments in the case at that meeting.

"We'll see if there will be a need to do some urgent measures, or simply wait for a phase four evaluation, which will for sure not happen this year," said Kos.  

Watch Vassy Kapelos' full interview with Drago Kos

Drago Kos, the chair of the OECD’s Working Group on Bribery, said Jody-Wilson Raybould’s testimony on the SNC-Lavalin controversy compelled the group to speak out about allegations of political interference in the criminal case against the Quebec engineering firm. 6:16

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