Canada's Conflict of Interest and Ethics commissioner has launched a probe into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's alleged illegal attempts to shield engineering giant SNC-Lavalin from criminal fraud and corruption charges.
The Montreal-based firm is facing accusations that its former executives paid millions of dollars in bribes to win contracts in Libya under Muammar Gaddafi's rule, which collapsed in 2011.
The investigation comes after Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper cited last week unnamed sources as saying that Trudeau's office pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould, the country's ex-justice minister and attorney general, to curtail the criminal prosecution of a multi-million-dollar corruption and fraud case against SNC-Lavalin.
The PM's office also urged Wilson-Raybould to redirect the matter out of the courts and into the so-called "remediation agreement" which would be an alternative to a criminal trial.
The agreement would have spared the company the negative financial and reputational consequences of a trial, including a 10-year ban on accepting government contracts, which would financially hurt the firm.
Wilson-Raybould, meanwhile, declined to comment on the story, while Trudeau denied the allegations but said he welcomes the probe.
"This is an issue that has been much talked about over the last few days and I think it's important Canadians continue to have confidence in our system," Trudeau pointed out.
SNC-Lavalin, in turn, said in a statement that it should be allowed to shun a trial because it allegedly changed its attitude following the federal charges, adding that it has "worked tirelessly to achieve excellence in governance and integrity".