Canada engineering firm charged with corruption

GMT 20:05 2015 Thursday ,19 February

Arab Today, arab today Canada engineering firm charged with corruption

SNC-Lavalin's international
Montreal - AFP

Canadian federal police charged Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiaries with corruption Thursday for allegedly bribing officials in Libya during former strongman Moamer Kadhafi's reign.
The charges are just the latest in a series of bodyblows dealt to one of the world's largest engineering firms after its former president and senior executives were accused of fraud, and the World Bank banned it from bidding on projects.
They are also the first accusations aimed directly at the company on its home turf.
In a statement, SNC-Lavalin said it would fight the charges, saying they stem from "alleged reprehensible deeds by former employees who left the company long ago."
"We believe that they would be correctly applied against the individuals in question and not the company," it said.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the alleged offenses took place between August 2001 and September 2011.
The company, its international arm and another subsidiary are accused of having offered Can$47,689,868 (US$38,115,750)in bribes to officials and of defrauding the Libyan government of Can$129,832,830 (US$103,761,529).
SNC-Lavalin oversaw billions of dollars worth of projects in Libya, including construction of a prison outside Tripoli and an airport in Benghazi.
The charges relate to the world's largest irrigation project -- the Great Man Made River Project -- to provide fresh water to the cities of Tripoli, Benghazi and Sirte.
- Point man in Libya -
SNC-Lavalin's former point man in Libya, Riadh Ben Aissa, was arrested in Switzerland in April 2012 and pleaded guilty to bribery, money laundering and embezzlement for having funneled illegal payments to Saadi Kadhafi, the dictator's son, and other officials.
Swiss prosecutors said SNC-Lavalin was a victim of that fraud.
Ben Aissa was executive vice president of the firm's construction arm before he was fired only two months prior to his arrest.
He is now back in Canada after being extradited from Switzerland to face charges related to a Montreal hospital contract.
He was granted bail last November and is due to appear in court for a preliminary hearing next month.
Ben Aissa, former CEO Pierre Huhaime, and the hospital's former chair, Arthur Porter, are accused of orchestrating millions in bribes in the awarding of a contract to build the hospital.
He was also the alleged mastermind behind an elaborate plot to bring Saadi Kadhafi into Mexico with false documents at the height of pro-democracy protests in Libya in 2011.
The RCMP said its investigation of the company, started in 2011, is ongoing.
Meanwhile, SNC-Lavalin was banned in 2013 from World Bank contracts for 10 years after executives were accused of bribery in the awarding of a contract to build a four-mile (six kilometer) bridge in Bangladesh, and "misconduct" in a rural electrification project in Cambodia.
Other investigations have also linked the century-old company with approximately 45,000 staff worldwide to alleged crimes in Algeria, Canada, Mexico and Tunisia.
A whistleblower first brought these scandals to light.
Since then, SNC-Lavalin distanced itself from former executives targeted by police, while cooperating in investigations.
Meanwhile, a new chief executive officer, Robert Card, was brought in to oversee a sweeping restructuring and implementation of strict business ethics.
Card said the company has already incurred "significant financial damage and losses" as a result of alleged wrongdoing by former staff.
In November the company slashed 4,000 jobs.
The new charges do not affect the company's ability to bid or work on any public or private projects, Card said.
But a conviction would bar it from bidding on lucrative Canadian government contracts -- its lifeblood.
Card warned in October that any attempt to hold SNC-Lavalin accountable for criminal actions of former employees would severely hurt its business.
He told the daily Globe & Mail the company could be broken apart and sold piecemeal, or "cease to exist entirely."


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