5 things we may never know about the SNC-Lavalin scandal

CBC News
SNC Lavalin Building James Alexander Michie

The prosecution of SNC-Lavalin is largest corporate corruption case in Canadian history, complete with $50 million in foreign bribes, ties to a bloody dictator and a foiled smuggling plot. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

The prosecution of SNC-Lavalin is proceeding full-steam ahead, with a preliminary hearing already underway in Montreal. A criminal trial is possible within a year.

That is unless the Trudeau government hands the Quebec company a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of a much-talked-about deferred prosecution agreement.

If a DPA is granted, there won’t be a trial and Canadians may never hear how far up the corporate ladder the alleged corruption went inside the global engineering firm.

And with the current parliamentary hearings so narrowly focused on the “he said, she said” of the Prime Minister’s Office and the former attorney general, Canadians are at risk of never learning the full extent to which SNC-Lavalin may have influenced the government.

1. How widespread was the bribery?

The criminal case looming over SNC-Lavalin is specifically about Libya.

The company is accused of paying $48 million in bribes to Libyan officials, with executives alleged to have bankrolled yachts and prostitutes for the son of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a bid to win lucrative contracts in the country.

If SNC-Lavalin is granted a remediation agreement, the company would face a massive fine — but the public will never get to see the evidence that the RCMP and prosecutors have spent seven years amassing in anticipation of the criminal trial.

What we don’t know — and may never know — is the extent of corruption beyond Libya.

SNC-Lavalin is alleged to have paid millions for travel, hotels and escorts on trips to Toronto and Montreal for Saadi Gadhafi, the son of Libya’s former dictator, shown here in a 2005 file photo. (Tim Wimborne/Reuters)

A CBC News and Globe and Mail investigation in 2013 revealed SNC-Lavalin used secret codes in budgets to hide improper payments on projects around the globe, which numerous employees allege were for bribes. The investigation exposed the payments in 13 countries, including Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, Ghana, India and Kazakhstan.

But Canada has yet to convict anyone from SNC-Lavalin for any foreign bribery — something that is illegal under Canadian law, which aims to stop Canadian companies from propping up corrupt officials and dictators in some of the world’s most underdeveloped, oppressive regimes.

A trial in the Libya case could be the last chance for accountability through a public and open hearing.

2. What did SNC’s senior management know?

SNC-Lavalin’s former top construction executive, Riadh Ben Aïssa, has already pleaded guilty to bribing Libyan officials and laundering tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks through Swiss bank accounts to win billions in contracts.

But that was in Switzerland, where he was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

What we don’t know is who else was involved.

Read more.

Source: Dave Seglins, Rachel Houlihan | CBC News

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