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Former Dentons Canada partner charged with extortion, obstruction in SNC-Lavalin case

Police in Canada have charged a prominent lawyer who formerly headed the tax practice at the Montreal office of Dentons Canada LPP for an alleged plot against a potential witness in the sprawling corruption case involving the SNC-Lavalin Group and several former executives.

Constantine Kyres, pictured, was charged Wednesday with extortion and obstruction of justice, according to the Globe and Mail.

He approached undercover police to obtain a statement of some sort from Riadh Ben Aissa, a former vice president of SNC-Lavalin who has been in jail in Switzerland for money laundering, fraud, and corruption.

Ben Aissa has been cooperating with police in Switzerland and apparently tipped authorities that Kyres was trying to pressure him to make a false statement.

Reports said Sami Bebawi, another former senior SNC executive, was also charged Wednesday with obstruction of justice.

"Kyres was drawn into the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police's] investigation after the April 2012 arrest of Ben Aissa in Switzerland," two law enforcement sources told the Globe and Mail.

An affidavit prepared by the RCMP 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.

Bebawi had also been been named as as co-conspirator with Ben Aissa.

The Globe and Mail said:

At some point after Ben Aissa’s arrest, Bebawi was able to get a message to him in Switzerland, the sources alleged. What Bebawi didn’t know at the time was that Ben Aissa was co-operating with authorities and he informed them about Bebawi’s overture, the sources alleged. Eventually, Ben Aissa agreed to have an intermediary meet with a representative of Bebawi, the sources said. Bebawi’s representative was Kyres; Ben Aissa’s intermediary was an undercover police officer, the sources said.

The content of of the alleged exchanges between the undercover officer and Kyres resulted in Wednesday’s charges against the lawyer and Bebawi, the Globe and Mail said.

Kyres is scheduled to appear in court on September 18.

Bebawi isn't in Canada and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, the Globe and Mail said.

Another warrant for his arrest has been issued.

Ben Aissa has also been named in connection with alleged bribes of $22 million that 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.

Kyres left Dentons Canada LPP in January. Since then he as practiced at his own firm, KyresLaw.

Dentons is one of the biggest law firms in the world, with offices in 52 countries and about 2,600 lawyers and professionals.

The firm was formed in late 2012 with a three-way merger of SNR Denton, Salans, and the Canada-based Fraser Milner Casgrain.

Kyres came to Dentons with Fraser Milner. He was with the two firms a total of nearly 25 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.


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