On February 19, 2015, the RCMP laid corruption and fraud charges
against the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., its division SNC-Lavalin
Construction Inc., and its subsidiary SNC-Lavalin International
Inc. under section 3(1)(b) of the Corruption of Foreign Public
Officials Act and paragraph 380(1)(a) of the Criminal
After a string of charges laid against individuals relating to
SNC-Lavalin projects in Libya, Bangladesh, and Montreal, these are
the first Canadian charges to be laid against the company itself.
SNC-Lavalin has stated that the new charges are "without
merit" and that it "will vigorously defend itself and
plead not guilty." This suggests that unlike previous
high-profile corruption cases against corporations (Niko Resources,
Griffiths Energy) which resulted in guilty pleas and settlements,
this matter may well proceed to trial and produce the first
Canadian case law clarifying the liability of companies for
engaging in corruption abroad. (The first Canadian judgment
addressing the liability of individuals, R. v. Karigar,
was issued in 2013.)
The allegations against SNC-Lavalin are that the three entities
offered or paid bribes of C$47,689,868 million or more, directly or
indirectly to Libyan government officials, and that the entities
defrauded the Libyan government, the "Management and
Implementation Authority of the Great Man Made River Project"
of Libya, the "General People's Committee for Transport
Civil Aviation Authority" of Libya, Lican Drilling Co Ltd, and
the "Organization for Development of Administrative
Centers" of Benghazi in Libya of property, money or valuable
security or service of a value of approximately C$129,832,830.
The charges relating to SNC's activities in Libya stem from
the RCMP's "Project Assistance" investigation, which
has been underway since 2011. In April 2012 the RCMP executed a
search warrant at SNC-Lavalin Group's headquarters pursuant to
a mutual legal assistance request by the Swiss authorities. The
Swiss authorities had arrested a former executive vice-president of
SNC-Lavalin Group, Riadh Ben Aissa, for money laundering and
corruption and in August 2014 reached a plea deal which saw Ben
Aissa plead guilty in October 2014 to bribery in exchange for the
29 months of incarceration he had already served and an order to
repay millions of dollars to SNC-Lavalin. Two weeks later, Ben
Aissa was extradited to Canada, where he is expected to face
prosecution on domestic corruption charges in relation to a large
public construction project in Quebec.
Three other people have already been charged in relation to the
Libya investigation. In February 2014, the RCMP laid charges
against Sami Abdellah Bebawi (a former SNC-Lavalin executive vice
president) and former financial controller Stephane Roy. Bewabi,
who was taken into custody last week, was charged with fraud,
bribing a foreign official, money laundering and possession of
proceeds of crime. Roy was charged with foreign bribery, fraud and
breaking a UN asset freeze. In September 2014, the RCMP laid
additional charges against Bebawi for obstructing justice, and
against Constantine Andreas Kyres, a Canadian lawyer, for
obstructing justice and extortion, alleging that the two men sought
to obtain a statement from Ben Aissa while he was detained in
Switzerland in exchange for money.
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Canadian engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin has been charged by the RCMP with paying bribes of nearly $48 million to Libyan government officials and defrauding Libya of nearly $130 million.
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