MONTREAL- A former SNC-Lavalin executive and his lawyer had obstruction of justice charges against them stayed Friday on the grounds that it took too long to bring the case to trial.
The engineering company’s former executive vice-president Sami Bebawi and his lawyer, Constantine Kyres, were initially charged with obstruction in 2014.
A stay of proceedings was issued in February 2018 after evidence was ruled inadmissible, but the charges were reinstated by direct indictment last May. Bebawi and his lawyer declined to speak to reporters after the ruling.
Kyres’s lawyer, Frank Pappas, said he believes justice was served. “We won this case about a year ago when a judge decided, a judicial ruling, that the RCMP operation was done illegally,” he told reporters after Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer read his ruling. “Finally, the delays caused by the Crown’s decision and strategies is what sunk their ship.”
The defendants invoked the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 Jordan decision, which set limits on how long a criminal cases can take, and Cournoyer agreed. The judge said Crown prosecutors could not demonstrate that the delays in the case were reasonable.
“The file seemed to have been abandoned like a ship without a captain,” Cournoyer said, referring to the lengthy delays in the trial.
Crown prosecutor Benoit Robert said he does not know if he will appeal Friday’s decision. “We will analyze it and we will decide afterwards if we will appeal it or not,” he said.
Bebawi is still facing charges including fraud and bribery of a public official in relation to SNC-Lavalin’s dealings with the regime of the late Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. The trial is upcoming.
That case stems from the same Project Assistance investigation that led to charges against SNC-Lavalin. Those charges continue to fuel controversy in Ottawa following a report that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the company avoid criminal prosecution.