The Canadian construction and engineering giant at the centre of a political scandal that shook the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this year will seek a trial by judge alone in a corruption case related to its dealings in Libya.
The decision by the lawyers representing SNC-Lavalin came after a Quebec court ruled in May that there was enough evidence against the Montreal-based company to face trial for fraud and corruption.
SNC-Lavalin is accused of paying $47.7 million in bribes to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011. SNC-Lavalin, its construction division and a subsidiary also face one charge each of fraud and corruption for allegedly defrauding various Libyan organizations of $129.8 million.
The company says it intends to vigorously challenge the charges and plead not guilty.
Being found guilty could have grave consequences for SNC-Lavalin because it could find itself blacklisted and shut out of lucrative federal contracts for a period of 10 years as well as undermining its international business opportunities.
The engineering and construction firm has been at the centre of a political controversy following accusations by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould that top government officials pressured her to overrule federal prosecutors and negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the company.
The DPA would have allowed the company to pay a fine rather than face a criminal trial.
Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet in February following media reports that her demotion from the justice portfolio to veterans affairs in a January cabinet shuffle was caused by her refusal to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Former Treasury Board President Jane Philpott also resigned from cabinet, saying she lost confidence in the government’s handling of the affair.
The scandal has also resulted in the resignation of Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts and the early retirement of Michael Wernick, the former clerk of the Privy Council.
With files by The Canadian Press