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Canadian PM Trudeau rejects corruption charges levelled by ex-minister

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, rejecting an opposition call for his resignation, disputed allegations on Wednesday by his former justice minister that government officials inappropriately pressured her to help a major company avoid a corruption trial.

The remarks by Jody Wilson-Raybould, made during almost four hours of sometimes dramatic testimony to the House of Commons justice committee, deepened the worst crisis of Trudeau’s tenure months before an October election.

Wilson-Raybould said she had confronted Trudeau over what she said were persistent efforts by officials to help construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc evade trial on charges of bribing Libyan officials.

“I strongly maintain, as I have from the beginning, that I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally,” Trudeau told a televised news conference in Montreal.

“I therefore completely disagree with (Wilson-Raybould’s) characterization of events,” he added, brushing off a demand from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer that he step down.

The case forced the resignation of Trudeau’s principal private secretary, Gerald Butts, earlier this month.

Wilson-Raybould said officials imposed “consistent and sustained pressure” on her from September to December last year to ensure SNC-Lavalin pay a large fine rather than go to trial.

“This pressure, or political interference to intervene, was not appropriate,” she said, adding that some officials had made veiled threats unless she cooperated.