Former SNC-Lavalin executive arrested in Switzerland
Published Sunday, April 29, 2012 10:10PM EDT
Swiss police have arrested a former executive of the Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
The news of the arrest comes nearly two weeks after the RCMP raided the company's head offices with a search warrant April 13.
A statement from the Swiss government to CTV News said that Riadh Ben Aissa is being held under "suspicion of corrupt practices, fraud and money laundering in connection with dealings conducted in North Africa."
The statement did not elaborate on the specific charges.
In a statement, SNC Lavalin would only say, "if crimes have been committed by Mr. Ben Aissa or any other former employee, the company believes that they should be held accountable"
Aissa was the executive vice-president of construction, but parted ways with the company in February this year along with another SNC executive.
The departures coincided with the results of an internal company investigation into US$56 million worth of payments that SNC said breached its code of ethics.
According to reports, Aissa had worked extensively in Libya on projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Aissa and company controller Stephane Roy were fired for having ties to al-Saadi Gadhafi, the son of the now dead dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Al-Saadi Gadhafi is wanted on an international arrest warrant.
Both Aissa and Roy were "no longer in the employ of the company, effective immediately," according to a release published by SNC-Lavalin Feb. 10.
The RCMP raid earlier this month was related "to an investigation of certain individuals who are not or are no longer employed by the company," SNC-Lavalin said in a statement at the time.
The company said it was "co-operating fully" with all investigations regarding "this or any other matters, and intends to respond to all requests from the authorities."
The company's former CEO Pierre Duhaime resigned in March in connection to an internal investigation into the payments.
At the time of his departure, SNC-Lavalin said the company's CFO and chairman refused to approve the payments in question, but Duhaime stepped in and allowed them to go forward - a move the company said contravened its code of ethics.
In February, the company's board launched an investigation into $35.5 million in payments, previously thought to be linked to its Libyan operations.
That probe was later expanded to include another US$22.5 million worth of payments.
All the payments were attributed to construction projects, but a closer look showed the money never reached them.
The company hasn't said which projects the probes were related to, but did say it didn't believe they were located in Libya.
SNC-Lavalin has been criticized in recent months for maintaining close ties to Moammar Gadhafi and his family.
Roy has also been linked to an alleged plot to help smuggle al-Saadi Gadhafi into Mexico.
Mexican authorities recently charged an Ontario woman, Cynthia Vanier, with masterminding the James Bond-style scheme, which involved private planes, forged passports and a safehouse.
Vanier was arrested in November and charged in February with attempted human trafficking, falsifying documents and organized crime in connection to the alleged Gadhafi plot.
With a report from CTV's Richard Madan