Judge mulls whether SNC-Lavalin to face trial as preliminary inquiry ends

The preliminary hearing on criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. wrapped up Monday, leaving a judge to weigh whether there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.

The court of Quebec hearing, which is subject to a publication ban, relates to fraud and corruption charges against the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant.

The proceedings began last fall after SNC-Lavalin failed to secure a deferred prosecution agreement, a kind of plea deal that would have seen the firm agree to pay a fine rather than face a trial.

Over the past two months, SNC has found itself in the eye of a political firestorm following accusations from former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould that top government officials pressured her to overrule federal prosecutors, who had opted not to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement with the company.

Both SNC-Lavalin and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have argued that a criminal trial could trigger the company's exit to the United States and the loss of thousands of jobs.

The RCMP has accused SNC-Lavalin of paying nearly $47.7 million in bribes to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011.

The company, its construction division and a subsidiary also face one charge each of fraud and corruption for allegedly defrauding various Libyan organizations of about $129.8 million.