A Canadian judge has approved a class action lawsuit from shareholders against SNC Lavalin that brings the total damages sought over the contractor's suspect payments in Libya to CA$ 1 billion (US$ 1 billion).
The new filing in the Canadian Province of Ontario has been certified by Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court.
It comes after a separate group of shareholders filed a similar collective lawsuit in Québec, seeking CA$ 250 million (US$ 252 million) in damages after the value fo their investment in the contractor fell following revelations about the mystery payments.
Dimitri Lascaris, a partner at law firm Siskinds which filed both class action lawsuits on behalf of SNC Lavalin shareholders, said the total amount being sought in both class actions was approximately CA$ 1 billion (US$ 1 billion).
Commenting on the Ontario action, Mr Lascaris said, "The plaintiffs and their counsel are pleased to have achieved certification of the action within several months of having commenced the litigation (certification generally takes well in excess of a year and often takes two or more years). We are anxious to begin discovery and look forward to examining the non-public evidence in this matter."
In March this year, Pierre Duhaime resigned as CEO of SNC Lavalin after an internal investigation found he signed-off on CA$ 35.5 million (US$ 56 million) in mystery payments, even though they were refused by the normal signatories. An internal investigation has failed to find what the payments were for.
SNC Lavalin vice president Riadh Ben Aïssa, who oversaw its operations in Libya, and vice president controller Stéphane Roy also left the company in February this year.
In April, Mr Ben Aïssa was arrested in Switzerland as part of an investigation by the Swiss Ministère Public de la Confédération (Federal Prosecutor) into corruption, fraud and money laundering connected to North Africa.
The Ontario lawsuit was brought on behalf of all SNC-Lavalin investors who purchased shares between 1 February, 2007, and 28 February, 2012, or who bought debentures through the company's June 2009 prospectus offering.
SNC Lavalin has denied the allegations and has said it plans to defend itself. A trial could begin next year or early in 2014 unless the case is settled.