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Criminal law at heart of SNC-Lavalin case rarely gets to a Canadian courtroom

The front lawn of the headquarters of SNC-Lavalin is seen in Montreal on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

OTTAWA — The criminal law at the heart of the SNC-Lavalin saga dogging the federal Liberals has led to charges in just seven cases in 20 years, leading some to call for a review of the legislation and more resources for investigators.

The most recent report to Parliament on the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act shows since the law was passed in 1999, there have been bribery charges laid against four companies and 15 individuals from seven investigations.

Of those, three companies pleaded guilty and three people were convicted, while 11 people were either acquitted or had the charges stayed.

There is one ongoing case against a company: SNC-Lavalin, over alleged bribes to Libyan officials.

That case is part of the allegations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his staff tried to influence former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to negotiate a remediation agreement to avoid a criminal trial.

James Cohen, the executive director of Transparency International’s Canadian office, says the recent introduction of remediation agreements as an option might help convince companies to self-report bribery but that there is much more Canada needs to do to help change the notion that bribery is simply the cost of doing business in many countries.

The Canadian Press