Eight years in prison for SNC-Lavalin’s former head of international construction

73-year-old Sami Bébawi, former head of international construction for Canadian engineer SNC-Lavalin, was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison on Friday, 10 January for his part in corrupt practices in Libya during the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

The sentencing closes a painful period for the company, which, separately, settled the corruption charges it faced as a company when its subsidiary SNC-Lavalin Construction Inc. pleaded guilty in the Court of Quebec to a single charge of fraud on 18 December.

We feel this settlement is fair, and we deeply regret this past behaviour– Kevin G. Lynch, SNC-Lavalin board chairman

All other charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and its international marketing arm, SNC-Lavalin International Inc., have been withdrawn as part of the settlement, which sees SNC-Lavalin Construction Inc. paying a C$280m fine over five years.

On 15 December 2019 a Quebec Superior Court jury found Bébawi guilty on all five counts he faced, including fraud, corruption of foreign officials and laundering proceeds of crime. 

Canada’s Crown prosecution alleged that SNC-Lavalin transferred approximately C$113m to a shell company between the late 1990s and the end of the Gadhafi regime in 2011. The prosecution’s main witness, another former SNC-Lavalin executive, Riadh Ben Aissa, told jurors the money was used to reward Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Saadi, for giving the company construction projects in the period totalling at least C$1.85bn.

Crown prosecutor Anne-Marie Manoukian said it was an "embarrassment for Canadian companies to act in that kind of behaviour", reports Canadian broadcaster CBC.

The charges against SNC-Lavalin, the company, were brought in 2015, and related to activities in Libya during the period of 2001 to 2011.

After settling its case, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. board chairman Kevin G. Lynch, said: "We are pleased to settle these legacy issues and remove these legal uncertainties overhanging the Company. We feel this settlement is fair, and we deeply regret this past behaviour which was contrary to our values and ethical standards. The company has changed a great deal, embraced a world-class integrity regime and culture, and going forward we have renewed confidence about the Company’s future." 

The company said it will engage an independent monitor to provide annual reports, with executive summaries posted on the company’s website. It will make any changes to its compliance and ethics programs identified by the monitor.

President and chief executive Ian L. Edwards said: "This is a game-changer for the company and finally allows us to put this issue behind us. I apologise for this past misconduct and welcome the opportunity to move forward. We are beginning an exciting new chapter that is focused on our future growth and further de-risking our business. I want to thank all of our stakeholders, and especially our employees, for their continued dedication and support."

SNC-Lavalin said it "does not anticipate" that the guilty plea will affect the eligibility of SNC-Lavalin Group companies to bid on future projects.

Image: ©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier

Further reading:

Story for GCR? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in News