SNC-Lavalin: hidden bribes for the Jacques-Cartier bridge

Engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin used projects in Africa as a smokescreen to pay $2.

SNC-Lavalin: hidden bribes for the Jacques-Cartier bridge

Engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin used projects in Africa as a smokescreen to pay $2.3 million in bribes that landed it a big contract to refurbish the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal.

• Read also: Accused of fraud: SNC-Lavalin gets away with a $30 million fine

An Air Algérie aircraft maintenance hangar, an infrastructure project in Libya; such were the subterfuges of the Montreal firm to provide a secret "reward" to the ex-CEO of the Federal Bridge Corporation Michel Fournier, in the early 2000s.

The scheme was sophisticated. SNC-Lavalin had to find a way to keep hidden payments from attracting the attention of auditors in its books (see diagram below).

She therefore sent hundreds of thousands of dollars four times to the Lebanese firm Promotag, which offered commercial agent services to obtain projects abroad.

In reality, Promotag was only a screen. She took a commission of about 5%, and the rest, or $2.2 million, ended up in Swiss bank accounts with original nicknames (“Zorro” and “St-Jean”) opened by Fournier and his wife.

Fines of $30 million

The Superior Court allowed these details to be revealed yesterday after SNC-Lavalin became, on Wednesday, the first firm in Canada to benefit from a reparation agreement in connection with the payment of bribes.

The agreement ratified by Judge Eric Downs provides that the firm will pay penalties of $ 30 million but escapes criminal convictions which would have prevented it from being able to win public contracts.

For "economic interest"

This week, the Crown argued that this deal was desirable out of “economic interest”. SNC-Lavalin employs more than 37,000 people in all of its subsidiaries.

The Crown also believes that the firm has changed its internal culture and no longer tolerates the payment of bribes.

Two former SNC-Lavalin employees are criminally charged with orchestrating the fraud, but a publication ban prevents us from revealing their names because their trials have not yet taken place.

Michel Fournier, meanwhile, had been sentenced to 5 and a half years in prison in 2017 after admitting to having had his paw greased. He will have finally spent less than a year behind bars.

Mari de l'ex-minister

Court documents consulted by our Bureau of Investigation show that at least one of the hidden payments was authorized by the former president of SNC-Lavalin International Michael Novak, husband of the MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and former Justice Minister Kathleen Weil.

Another of the installments has obtained the approval of Gilles Laramée, former chief financial officer of SNC-Lavalin. Neither Mr. Laramée nor Mr. Novak have been charged in this case.

A SOPHISTICATED STRATAGEM

– With the collaboration of Michael Nguyen


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