Canada's former attorney general on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's inner circle and other officials of attempted political interference in a criminal prosecution.
Jody Wilson-Raybould was testifying before parliament's justice committee, which is investigating purported meddling by senior government officials in fraud prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin -- claims that have touched off a political firestorm just eight months before elections.
"Between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin," Wilson-Raybould said.
She also said she faced "veiled threats" and suggestions from the Clerk of the Privy Council -- Canada's top bureaucrat -- that "a collision with the prime minister on these matters should be avoided."
And she said she believes that she was shuffled out of justice to another portfolio in January over her refusal to take action in the case.
For weeks, Trudeau's government has been rocked by allegations that undue pressure was put on the former attorney general for an out-of-court settlement with SNC-Lavalin.
The Montreal-based firm was charged in 2015 with corruption for allegedly bribing officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts during former strongman Moamer Kadhafi's reign.
The company, its international arm and another subsidiary are accused of having offered Can$47 million (US$36 million) in bribes to officials and of defrauding the Libyan government of Can$130 million (US$98 million).
The charges relate to the world's largest irrigation project -- the Great Man Made River Project -- to provide fresh water to the cities of Tripoli, Benghazi and Sirte.
The company has argued that those responsible for alleged wrongdoing left it long ago, and that holding it accountable for their criminal actions would severely hurt its business.
It lobbied the government, including senior officials in Trudeau's office, for an out-of-court settlement that would include paying a fine and agreeing to put in place compliance measures.
But Wilson-Raybould refused to ask prosecutors to settle with the company, and the trial is set to proceed.
She quit Trudeau's cabinet earlier this month, and Trudeau's longtime friend and principal secretary Gerry Butts also resigned days later.
Trudeau has steadfastly denied any direct involvement, saying that he had made clear to Wilson-Raybould that any decision on the case "as attorney general was hers alone to make," which Wilson-Raybould confirmed in her testimony.
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