SNC-Lavalin’s ties to Libya’s former dictatorship ran so deep the company offered the son of Moammar Gadhafi a six-figure job as a vice president in 2008, according to a newly unsealed RCMP affidavit.
The Montreal-based company even asked the Canadian government to grant Gadhafi's son a temporary work permit to bring him to Canada to help expand business in a group of North African countries known as the Maghreb.
Al-Saadi Gadhafi was offered the title of "V-P Maghreb" along with a three-year contract at $150,000 annual salary, according to a letter seized by the RCMP from SNC-Lavalin headquarters in 2012. The information was revealed for the first time in a 114-page affidavit prepared by RCMP Cpl. Alexandre Beaulieu. The document spells out the RCMP’s belief that executives and the company itself bribed foreign officials and defrauded shareholders of tens of millions of dollars.
Saadi Gadhafi was not only the playboy son of late Libyan dictator, but he was a top public official in Libya prior to 2011. He oversaw the granting of billions of dollars in contracts for engineering megaprojects. SNC-Lavalin unabashedly courted favour with him over the years, paying for various trips to Canada, as well as paying for a condo for him in Toronto and buying a 45-metre yacht for his use.
But the RCMP, in the affidavit filed this month aimed at seizing bank accounts and properties of a former SNC executive’s assets, says that it appears another former head of the company’s construction division, Riadh Ben Aïssa, was ready in 2008 to go further and hire Gadhafi outright.
The police affidavit states that during the 2012 search of SNC-Lavalin’s Montreal headquarters, investigators seized Canadian and Quebec immigration forms filled out for Al-Saadi Gadhafi, as well as a March 2008 letter. It was not signed by hand, but as being from "Riadh Ben Aissa, Executive VP, office of the president, SNC Lavalin Inc." and addressed to the Canadian Embassy in Tunisia requesting a temporary work permit.
"SNC-Lavalin previously benefited from the collaboration of Al-Saadi Gadhafi," writes Beaulieu, describing the letter’s contents. "Al Saadi Gadhafi held a degree in civil engineering and was son of the Libyan President [Moammar] Gadhafi. He had expertise in civil engineering and a network of contacts in North Africa, especially Libya."
The letter refers to "precious services" rendered by Gadhafi, including his help in securing a $475-million contract for SNC-Lavalin "for the operation and maintenance of the manufacturing plant of water pipes in Sarir, Libya."
Beaulieu states that SNC-Lavalin "wanted to temporarily benefit from the presence of Al-Saadi Gadhafi in their team not only because of his links with the ‘high eminence’ within the Libyan government," but he was also an engineer who could advise them on project management.
"They were convinced that his temporary involvement would allow them to obtain more contracts, to proceed more rapidly on their day-to-day business in North Africa, and to solidify the growth of SNC-Lavalin in Libya," says the affidavit.
None of the allegations in the RCMP affidavit have been proven or tested in court. It is also unclear from the affidavit whether the letters seized were ever sent.
Former executive Ben Aissa, who was forced to resign from the company in February 2012, has not been able to respond. He is currently jailed in Switzerland accused of corruption and laundering tens of millions of dollars to pay himself and Saadi Gadhafi. He is also facing charges, laid by the RCMP, that allege he bribed the Gadhafi regime, defrauded shareholders and pocketed millions of company money. His Canadian lawyer has not yet responded to questions about the 2008 letter asking to bring Gadhafi to Canada, nor the RCMP claims that Ben Aissa committed bribery, fraud and possessed proceeds of crime.
"The activities described in these documents were known only to the individuals involved and they are no longer with the company," said SNC-Lavalin spokesperson Leslie Quinton.
"The company was not aware of these actions and cannot comment on them," she added.
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade referred questions about whether Canada ever granted Gadhafi a work permit to Citizenship and Immigration, which has not yet responded to inquiries from CBC News.