Canada’s ethics watchdog slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, concluding in the lead-up October elections that he broke rules by arm-twisting his attorney general to settle a criminal case against engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
The scandal, revealed earlier this year, tarnished the prime minister’s golden boy image, cost two ministers and two senior officials their jobs and plunged his Liberals into a dead heat with the opposition Conservatives in the polls.
Independent parliamentary ethics commissioner Mario Dion said Trudeau and his officials had wrongly sought to “exert influence over the attorney general in her decision whether to intervene in a matter relating to a criminal prosecution.”
Trudeau must pay a small fine of up to Can$500 (US$375) for contravening Canada‘s conflict of interest act, but with only two months before national elections the political costs could be much steeper.
“This is a bombshell report”, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says of ethics commissioner’s finding that PM Trudeau violated rules in SNC-Lavalin case. Singh adds “it’s unprecedented that the ethics comm’r now has found two contraventions of the Conflict of Interest Act” by PM #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/bkgSbqKwPf
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) August 14, 2019
Trudeau had steadfastly denied accusations that his inner circle sought to shield SNC-Lavalin from a corruption trial.
The Montreal-based firm was charged in 2015 with allegedly paying bribes to secure contracts in Libya.
Attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould refused to ask prosecutors to settle the case, and the trial is set to proceed.
But after resigning, she testified to lawmakers that she had experienced “consistent and sustained” political pressure to interfere in the case, including “veiled threats.”
Dion concluded: “The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”
He also found that “partisan political interests were improperly put to the attorney general for consideration in the matter,” notably that a conviction at trial would result in SNC-Lavalin being deprived of lucrative government contracts resulting in job losses that could harm the Liberals’ re-election bid.
ABC News had the goods on Jeffrey Epstein years ago — and killed the story
Multimillionaire predator Jeffrey Epstein died in suspicious circumstances at a Manhattan correctional facility on Aug. 10. The wealthy and powerful New York financier, a convicted sex offender, stands accused by dozens of women and girls of trafficking, rape and sexual abuse. He was an enormously influential and well-connected man who counted as friends billionaire business owners, Hollywood stars, British royals, and even top media figures like Katie Couric and Charlie Rose — with some of his associates falling under suspicion of condoning or even participating in a pedophile ring.
Child killed as quake strikes southern Philippines
A powerful earthquake hit the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Sunday, killing a child, injuring dozens and damaging buildings in an area still recovering from a string of deadly quakes in October.
Police said a rescue operation had been launched at a heavily damaged market building in Padada near the 6.8 magnitude quake's epicentre, which is about 90 kilometres (55 miles) south of the major city of Davao.
Patients were evacuated from hospitals as a precaution and nervous crowds massed outside shopping malls after the jolt and dozens of smaller, but strong aftershocks.
50 bodies unearthed from Mexican mass grave
The bodies of at least 50 people have been unearthed from a mass grave at a farm outside Mexico's western city of Guadalajara, local authorities said.
The grim site was discovered just over three weeks ago in Jalisco -- a state hard-hit by violence linked to organized crime.
The local prosecutor's office said Saturday 13 of the dead -- 12 men and a woman -- have been identified and the remains given to their families.
The process of identifying more of the victims and how they died will continue, it added.
A mass grave with 34 bodies was discovered in a suburb of Guadalajara on September 3, while another was found nearby in May with the remains of 30 people.