A judge on Wednesday approved the first-ever suspended prosecution agreement in a criminal case involving a Canadian company. Under this new procedure adopted by the Trudeau government, SNC-Lavalin will pay a $ 30 million fine and avoid a criminal trial in connection with bribes paid to obtain a contract to repair the Jacques-Cartier bridge in the first place. part of the 2000s.
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Superior Court Judge Éric Downs issued the decision after hearing representations from the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) and SNC-Lavalin lawyers. Everyone agreed that the use of this new provision was in the public interest.
The company admitted that between 1997 and 2004, the company paid approximately $ 2.35 million in bribes to Michel Fournier, then president of the Federal Bridge Corporation, to be favored for awarding a public contract that ended a total of 128 million with all the extra added to the initial price.
Mr. admitted. Fournier pleaded guilty in this case and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison. Two former SNC-Lavalin executives are awaiting trial in the case and will face jail if convicted. The deferred prosecution agreement, a procedure that only applies to “legal persons” such as companies, does not apply to them.
Once the cases were filed in September, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) declared that he was inviting SNC-Lavalin to negotiate a suspended prosecution agreement.
The fate of the top 37,000 employees
It was this kind of agreement that the company tried unsuccessfully to obtain to avoid a criminal trial in a corruption case in Libya, which caused a crisis within Justin Trudeau’s cabinet and led to the removal of the former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus.
Deferred prosecution agreements were introduced in Canada by the Trudeau government in 2018 by amending the Criminal Code. Such agreements, which make it possible to penalize a company that admits its wrongdoing without having to go through a criminal trial and a court judgment, already exist in several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. , where they are commonly used. .
The fact of not accepting a criminal conviction also allows the company to avoid exclusion in certain public contracts. The two parties argued with the judge that SNC-Lavalin currently employs more than 37,000 employees in Quebec and elsewhere in the world and that it is necessary to consider the impact on them as well as on shareholders and retirees. The leaders who were in place when the embezzlement was exposed have all left the company and it has adopted a new, very strict code of ethics under the supervision of an independent auditor.
“We hope that the reparations agreement reached and approved by the Court will allow us to turn the page on these events from almost 20 years ago. Today, our employees know more than anyone if how far we have come over the past few years to provide the company with a world-class integrity program, ”said Ian L. Edwards, President and Chief Executive Officer of the SNC-Lavalin group.
Good cooperation with the police
The judge took into account the fact that SNC-Lavalin had cooperated with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation into the matter, particularly by providing important documents that made it possible to trace the money.
“The report [avec la police] is very positive, friendly and productive, “said Mr.at François Fontaine, of Norton Rose, representing SNC-Lavalin with his colleague Mr.at Charles-Antoine Peladeau.
The formula of the deferred prosecution agreement worked well in this case, underlined by DPCP prosecutors, who said they hoped other entrepreneurs with knowledge of wrongdoing in their business could seek help with it. by raising a hand to report crimes.
“How many more should come and knock on our doors and the police forces? M. asked.at Patrice Peltier-Rivest, who represented the Crown with his colleague Mat Francis Pilotte.