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Canada court rejects bid by SNC-Lavalin to review decision for trial

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Canada court rejects bid by SNC-Lavalin to review decision for trial
FILE PHOTO: The SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., headquarters seen in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo   -   Copyright  Christinne Muschi(Reuters)
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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Federal Court on Friday rejected a bid by SNC-Lavalin Group Inc to challenge a decision by prosecutors to put the construction company on trial on charges of corruption.

In a ruling, Justice Catherine Kane said the company’s application for a review of the decision “had no reasonable prospect of success.”

SNC-Lavalin declined to comment on the ruling.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is grappling with a crisis over allegations that top officials pressured Canada’s former attorney general to direct the public prosecutor to strike a deal with the Montreal-based company rather than go ahead with a trial.

SNC-Lavalin, which employs some 9,000 people in Canada and tens of thousands abroad, is accused of bribing Libyan officials to get contracts between 2001 and 2011.

It has argued for an out of court settlement, known as a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), saying it had cleaned shop by changing executives and overhauling its ethics and compliance systems in recent years.

The preliminary hearings in the case are ongoing.

Trudeau, whose prospects for winning an election in October have dimmed, dodged questions from reporters about the court ruling on Friday, repeating that his government is focused on trying to protect jobs.

“On this specific question of a DPA, that is the Attorney General’s decision to make … and the Attorney General will make that decision,” he told reporters in the northern city of Iqaluit.

Trudeau has been on the defensive for a month over the SNC-Lavalin affair, which has prompted the resignations of former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, Treasury Board President Jane Philpott and Trudeau’s closest political aide, Gerald Butts.

A court conviction would bar SNC-Lavalin from bidding on government contracts for 10 years, possibly forcing it to cut jobs in Quebec and leaving it vulnerable to a takeover that could see its headquarters leave the province.

Quebec is a political stronghold for Trudeau and is seen as key to his party’s chances of re-election in the Oct. 21 election against a resurgent Conservative opposition. About 20 percent of the Liberal seats in the House of Commons currently are based in Quebec.

SNC-Lavalin shares were down 0.62 percent in midday trade, in line with the declines in the broader market.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Julie Gordon; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and James Dalgleish)

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