SNC-Lavalin pleads guilty to fraud, will pay a $280M fine for Libyan work

MONTREAL — SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.’s construction division will plead guilty to a charge of fraud over $5,000 and pay a $280-million penalty related to work the company did in Libya.

The plea deal comes on the heels of the conviction of a former top SNC-Lavalin executive last Sunday.

The criminal cases are separate, but both relate to allegations of corruption and fraud in Libya going back roughly two decades.

The company and two of its subsidiaries face charges that they paid nearly $48 million to public officials to influence government decisions under the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s regime between 2001 and 2011.

The case also included charges of fraud and corruption against the company for allegedly defrauding various Libyan organizations of roughly $130 million in a case that ensnared the company as well as the federal Liberal government in a political controversy.

On Dec. 15, a jury found former SNC-Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi guilty of paying off foreign officials and pocketing millions as he worked to secure contracts for the Canadian engineering company in Libya.

The case against the company and two of its subsidiaries is based on allegations that they paid nearly $48 million to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to influence government decisions. The company is also accused of fraud and corruption for allegedly defrauding various Libyan organizations of roughly $130 million.

It was that case that thrust the Montreal-based company into the centre of a political controversy this year involving the governing Liberals.

The SNC-Lavalin affair revolved around Jody Wilson-Raybould’s claim that as attorney general she was pressured by people in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s inner circle to settle criminal charges against the company through a new legal tool comparable to a plea deal.

The head of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. said in October that he did not expect a plea deal on the criminal charges in the wake of the Liberal election victory.

“We kind of remain focused on defending ourselves through a court process,” said Ian Edwards, on an Oct. 31 conference call with investors.

“Obviously if there were opportunities for settling this in another way, we’d be open to that. But we don’t expect it.”

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. shares remain halted on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

(Canadian Press)

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