21 May 2013
Forced to defend itself in court, Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin has broken its silence, saying it had nothing to do with a plot to whisk the son of Gaddafi illegally to Mexico.
SNC-Lavalin says it fired former executive Stephane Roy last year because it claims he acted illegally and on his own to help smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, the powerful son of the Libyan dictator, to Mexico.
Until now silent on the issue, the engineering giant is defending itself against a nearly $1-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by Mr Roy, the company’s former controller.
In a 16-page statement of defence filed in Quebec Superior Court, SNC-Lavalin says Mr Roy and former executive Riadh Ben Aissa plotted to help Saadi Gaddafi and his family to flee Libya without its knowledge, reports Canada’s Financial Post newspaper.
"They committed serious acts, outside their normal duties and without the knowledge of their superiors, in violation of SNC-Lavalin’s code of conduct and in the blatant and total disregard of the policies and controls in place," the statement said.
Furthermore, SNC-Lavalin is fighting back by seeking more than $1.8-million from Mr Roy to cover expenses it says it later learned were paid by the company.
Mr Roy, who was the company’s controller, sued for wrongful dismissal, saying he had been made a "scapegoat", and described as a "rogue employee" even though he claims to have always acted on the company’s orders.
He said SNC-Lavalin created "a corporate culture where it was common practice to do all that was necessary, including the payment of ‘commissions’ and other benefits to obtain contracts, including in Libya."
SNC-Lavalin denies Mr Roy’s claims.
SNC-Lavalin issues counter claims in wrongful dismissal suit. (Credit: Getty)
Mr Roy reported directly to Mr Ben Aissa, former executive vice president in charge of construction, who remains in custody in Switzerland on suspicion of laundering millions of dollars and bribing North African public officials.
In Canada, Mr Ben Aissa is accused, alongside SNC-Lavalin’s former CEO Pierre Duhaime, with fraud relating to the construction of a new superhospital in Montreal.
Roy has never been charged.
"Planned since February 2011″
SNC-Lavalin said Messrs Roy and Ben Aissa broke Canadian and international laws by secretly working to help Gaddafi.
It said Mr Roy worked with Cynthia Vanier, who has recently released from 18 months of custody in Mexico, to create fake passports and Mexican documents for the Gaddafi family.
SNC-Lavalin’s statement alleges that Ms Vanier and others began planning Saadi Ghadafi’s escape from Libya as early as February 2011.
Ms Vanier has proclaimed her innocence. She was released from prison after a tribunal of the Supreme Court of Mexico upheld her appeal against her arrest and detention.
In its legal filing, SNC cited emails from Ms Vanier that it says suggest the initial plan was to get Gaddafi family into Canada, before sanctions against his travel made that impossible.
SNC-Lavalin said it discovered the connection with Ms Vanier during an internal investigation at the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012.
The company claimed Ms Vanier proposed a fact-finding mission on the situation in Libya that was a cover for a secret project to extract Gaddafi.
It said Messrs Ben Aissa and Roy used new spending authority they were granted by SNC to pay Ms Vanier and Saadi Gaddafi’s Canadian bodyguard $1.85 million.
In the court filing, SNC cited emails Ms Vanier allegedly sent about the extraction plan.
Mr Roy was arrested in Mexico in November 2011 along with two others and briefly detained. But he never informed his direct superior, Mr Ben Aissa, SNC said.