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SNC-Lavalin sues to recover CAN$2m in alleged Gadhafi plot
Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, which is embroiled in controversy in T&T, is seeking to recover millions of dollars from a former company executive and a consultant, who the company accuse of using Lavalin funds to bankroll an illegal plot to smuggle members of the Gadhafi family out of Libya in 2011.
The company filed a motion in Quebec last week claiming former executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa hired Cynthia Vanier in June 2011 as part of a clandestine plot, paying her in excess of CAN$1.8 million to arrange the move of Saadi Gadhafi and his family out of Libya —contrary to UN asset freezes and travel bans. SNC is seeking to recoup that money from Vanier and her company, Vanier Consulting. SNC is also seeking an additional CAN$202,333 from Ben Aissa alone.
“We believe that there were illegal acts committed with funds that belong to SNC-Lavalin,” company spokesperson Leslie Quinton told CBC News on Friday. “We are asking Mrs. Vanier and Vanier Consultants for CAN$1.8 million. We are also asking for another CAN$200,000 (from Ben Aissa), which the company was obliged to pay under the guise of a construction cost, when in fact it was payments for a condominium that belonged to, supposedly, Saadi Gadhafi.”
SNC-Lavalin is seeking CAN$1.8 million from Cynthia Vanier and her company. None of the allegations against Vanier or Ben Aissa have been proven in court, and Vanier has always denied involvement in the alleged human smuggling plot.
She returned home to Canada in April after being jailed in Mexico for 18 months, accused of falsifying passports and leading a criminal plot to smuggle Gadhafi into the country. She was released after a Mexico court ruled her legal and human rights had been violated during the course of her arrest and prosecution.
Ben Aissa has not commented on the allegations and remains jailed in Switzerland where he is accused of laundering tens of millions of dollars from the Gadhafi regime. He is also facing prosecution on fraud charges in Canada over alleged payments tied to the construction of the McGill University Health Centre.
T&T’s High Commissioner to Canada Philip Buxo has denied allegations that he used his current position to promote the interests of his former employer, SNC-Lavilin, which is in the running to be chosen to build a $1.5 billion hospital in Penal.
Buxo worked as director of the Caricom Region Energy and Infrastructure Division of SNC-Lavalin, which has been banned by the World Bank Group for ten years from bidding on contracts which it funded. The World Bank Bank Group banned SNC-Lavilin and over 100 of its affliated companies in connection with fraud and corruption relating to projects in Cambodia and Bangladesh.
In its court filing, the company cites an RCMP warrant obtained to search SNC’s Montreal headquarters in April 2012. It also cites emails that Vanier allegedly sent to Ben Aissa’s financial controller, Stephane Roy, that allegedly lay out details of a plan to smuggle the son of Libya’s then dictator out of the country, under false names, to a new life in hiding. “We believe that there were illegal acts committed with funds that belong to SNC Lavalin.”—Company spokesperson Leslie Quinton
SNC asserts that Vanier was hired under a fake contract and was not on a “fact finding” mission to Libya in July 2011, but rather used that as a cover story.