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Former SNC-Lavalin exec cops plea in Switzerland

A former vice president of SNC-Lavalin wanted in Canada on bribery charges has agreed to a deal with Swiss prosecutors that could lead to his extradition.

Switzerland’s Attorney-General's office said Monday that Riadh Ben Aissa signed a plea deal with prosecutors on August 4, the Globe and Mail reported.

He's been facing Swiss charges for money laundering, fraud, and corruption.

An affidavit prepared by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in April 2012 tied Ben Aissa to more than $160 million in alleged bribes paid to the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in exchange for engineering contracts.

A Swiss court is expected to rule on the plea deal in October, the Globe and Mail said.

Ben Aissa could be released from Swiss custody in April 2015.

He’s been held in Switzerland since his arrest there in 2012.

Ben Aissa has also been named in connection with alleged bribes of $22 million SNC-Lavalin paid for a contract to build the new $2.4 billion McGill University Health Center.

The former head of the Montreal hospital, Arthur Porter, was arrested last year in Panama on an Interpol warrant charging him with fraud. 

In April 2013, SNC-Lavalin was barred from World Bank-funded projects for ten years because of alleged corruption in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Libya, and Algeria.

The company's former CEO, Pierre Duhaime, pleaded not guilty in Canada in early 2013 to corruption charges.

Duhaime left Canada's biggest engineering firm in 2012 after an internal audit found more than $50 million in payments to middlemen that couldn't be traced to the performance of any services.

The Globe and Mail said if Ben Aissa's plea is accepted, "SNC-Lavalin could recoup millions of dollars seized by Swiss authorities."


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.