Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated federal conflicts of interest in handling a corruption investigation, the Federal Ethical Czar has found.
The Ethics Commissioner states that Trudeau incorrectly attempted to influence a former minister in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
The Prime Minister says he accepts the Commissioner's report but does not agree with any of its conclusions.
The results may be a question for Mr. Trudeau before the October elections.
Earlier this year, the former Attorney General and Attorney, Jody Wilson-Raybould, accused Mr Trudeau and his staff of having spent months convincing her that taking SNC-Lavalin into trial would cost Canadian jobs and their party votes. [1
What did the Ethics Commissioner Report say?
Commissioner Mario Dion's fraud report found that Mr. Trudeau had violated section nine of the conflict of interest, which prohibits public officials from using his position to improperly promote another's private interests.
"The Prime Minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Mrs. Wilson-Raybould," Dion said in a statement released with her 63-page report on Wednesday.
He said that Mr. Trudeau and his office "were used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately try to discredit the decision" by Wilson-Raybould and the federal prosecutor's office not to proceed with a suspended SNC-Lavalin indictment.
Dion's conclusions have no legal consequences beyond a possible minimum fine, which his office says is not applicable in this case.
What is the SNC-Lavalin deal?
SNC-Lavalin is one of the world's largest engineering and construction companies and employs approximately 9,000 people in Canada.
It is accused of passing officials in Libya to win contracts under Muammar Gaddafi's regime and was charged in February 2015 for crimes alleged to have occurred between 2001 and 2011.
SNC-Lavalin has openly lobbied for an agreement that would allow it to avoid prosecution and instead face alternative sanctions or measures, such as a fine.
A conviction could lead to a decade-long ban on bidding on Canadian federation contracts and would allow authorities to cancel the company's current such contract.
The company argued that it should be allowed to avoid a lawsuit because it has changed following the federal charges and it has "worked tirelessly to achieve the highest quality in governance and integrity".
The company hoped that it could come to an agreement with prosecutors that would be an alternative to trial. The Attorney General must agree to the negotiations on the agreement.
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Mrs. Raybould said members of Mr. Trudeau's inner circle pressed her to cut an agreement, and when she did not, was removed she from her position as Minister of Justice.
She and her colleague Jane Philpott resigned from Mr Trudeau's cabinet with reference to their concerns over the affair and were later removed from the liberal caucus. They now both run for re-election as independent candidates.
In his report, Dion stated that "because SNC-Lavalin overwhelmingly stood to benefit from Mrs. Wilson-Raybould's intervention, I have no doubt that the result of Trudeau's influence would have furthered SNC-Lavalin's interests".
What has been the reaction?
Mr. Trudeau told the journalist that as to how the SNC-Lavalin deal was handled "we realize how this should not have happened" but said that his government was acting in national economic interests.
Asked if he would shoot any of the best help mentioned in the report, Trudeau said: "The money ends with the prime minister, and I take responsibility for everything that happened in my office."
Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said on Twitter that "Justin Trudeau said he should be responsible and ethical – instead he used his office power to reward his followers and punish his critics".
Mr. Trudeau's political rivals also noted that this is not Mr. Trudeau's first violation of ethics.
In December 2017, the Federal Ethics Commission found that Mr. Trudeau's luxury trips to the island of Aga Khan in the Bahamas violated four conflicts of interest rules.
Mr. Trudeau, his family and some older members of the Liberal Party vacation on the island owned by the philanthropist and spiritual leader in 2016.