Former SNC-Lavalin executive arrested in Switzerland

By Chris Sleight30 April 2012

SNC-Lavalin building

SNC-Lavalin building

Riadh Ben Aïssa, the former head of Canadian contractor SNC-Lavalin's activities in Libya has been arrested in Switzerland. Local news reports say he has been in prison since mid-April, following his arrest as part of an investigation by the Ministère Public de la Confédération (Federal Prosecutor) into corruption, fraud and money laundering connected to North Africa.

A statement from SNC-Lavalin said, "If crimes have been committed by Mr Ben Aissa or any other former employee, the company believes that they should be held accountable."

Mr Ben Aïssa parted company with SNC-Lavalin on February 11 along with vice president controller Stéphane Roy, as questions began to be raised about their conduct. Two weeks later, an investigation by SNC-Lavalin unearthed a series of suspect payments connected to its activities in North Africa totaling CA$ 35 million (US$ 35.5 million).

An internal investigation failed to find what the payments were for, but said they were linked to Libya. The company also said it believed Mr Ben Aïssa had knowledge of the payments, but it had been unable to contact him. SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime resigned following the investigation, which found he signed-off on the payments, even though they were refused by the normal signatories.

Canadian law firm Siskinds Desmeules has filed a motion in the Québec Superior Court to bring a class action law suit seeking CA$ 250 million (US$ 252 million) in damages from SNC Lavalin over the company's conduct.

SNC Lavalin's shares closed on February 10, the day before Mr Ben Aïssa's departure at CA$ 50.90. They closed on Friday (April 27) at CA$ 36.97 - a loss of -27.4%.

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