February 15, 2019 / 4:34 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Canada's Trudeau says did not direct ex-justice minister on SNC-Lavalin

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TORONTO/OTTAWA, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that his former justice minister asked him if he was going to offer direction over whether construction company SNC-Lavalin should face a corruption trial and he told her “absolutely not.”

Jody Wilson-Raybould quit Trudeau’s cabinet unexpectedly on Tuesday after a newspaper reported she had been pressured by the prime minister’s team to go easy on SNC-Lavalin last year when she was justice minister and attorney general.

She was shuffled to Veteran Affairs in January, a move widely seen as a demotion for one of Canada’s most prominent indigenous federal politicians.

“In terms of giving any direction, she asked me if I would do that and I said no, absolutely not. It’s your decision to make,” Trudeau told reporters at an event in an Ottawa suburb.

Wilson-Raybould has not commented on the matter, citing solicitor-client privilege. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

On Wednesday, a Liberal-led parliamentary committee rejected an opposition bid to question Wilson-Raybould and senior officials about the allegations of political interference, which are becoming a problem for Trudeau ahead of a fall election.

Last week the Globe and Mail reported that officials in Trudeau’s office urged Wilson-Raybould to allow SNC-Lavalin to avoid a corruption trial on charges of bribing Libyan officials, and escape with a fine instead.

The company is seeking to avoid a corruption trial because it says the executives accused of wrongdoing have left the company and it has overhauled ethics and compliance systems. (Reporting by Matt Scuffham in Toronto and Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Tom Brown)

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