Executive vice-president of SNC-Lavalin arrested

Former construction group head apprehended for Libya corruption

SNC-Lavalin has faced a deluge of negative publicity. Inset: Riadh Ben Aissa
SNC-Lavalin has faced a deluge of negative publicity. Inset: Riadh Ben Aissa

Riadh Ben Aissa, the former executive vice-president of prominent regional contractor SNC-Lavalin, has been arrested in Switzerland on corruption charges in relation to his dealings with the former Gaddafi regime in Libya.

Aissa is accused with corruption of public officials, fraud and the laundering of $56m in improper payments in his business dealings in Libya, which helped SNC-Lavalin win billions of dollars in projects from the Gaddafi regime. Aissa held his position at SNC-Lavalin until February this year.

"The federal prosecutor's office confirms the arrest of a dual Tunisian-Canadian citizen," said Jeannette Balmer for the Swiss federal prosecution in an interview in Bern, Switzerland.

Particularly controversial is the revelation that Ben Aissa inappropriately awarded his sister design contracts for a $275m prison for 4,000 inmates and the rehabilitation of lakes in Benghazi, highlighting the breakdown in controls and transparency between executives and directors at the company.

Aissa and the chief financial officer Stéphane Roy are also responsible for hiring the Canadian Cyndy Vanier, who is currently in prison in Mexico, implicated in a plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi and his family out of Libya under assumed identities.

Swiss officials requested that the Canadian police to conduct a search of SNC-Lavalin’s Montreal headquarters earlier this month, with documents seized and executives questioned.

SNC-Lavalin's CEO Pierre Duhaime also announced his surprise retirement in late March with a severance package of $4.9m, just before the company announced its internal review, including the $56m payments which were secretly approved by Duhaime, despite the refusal of SNC-Lavalin's chief financial officer.

SNC-Lavalin has recently been involved in regional contracting work on the new Emirates Aluminium potline, the world's longest, and in engineering work for the $500m caustic soda plant in Salalah.

 

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