Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin is accusing Ontario consultant Cynthia Vanier and a former company executive of using millions in company funds to bankroll an illegal plot to smuggle members of the Gadhafi family out of Libya in 2011.
The company filed a motion Monday in Quebec claiming former executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa hired Vanier in June 2011 as part of a clandestine plot, paying her in excess of $1.8 million to arrange the move of Saadi Gadhafi and his family out of Libya — contrary to UN asset freezes and travel bans.
SNC is seeking to recoup that money from Vanier and her company, Vanier Consulting. SNC is also seeking an additional $202,333 from Ben Aissa alone.
"We believe that there were illegal acts committed with funds that belong to SNC-Lavalin," company spokesperson Leslie Quinton told CBC News on Friday. "We are asking Mrs. Vanier and Vanier Consultants for $1.8 million. We are also asking for another $200,000 [from Ben Aissa], which the company was obliged to pay under the guise of a construction cost, when in fact it was payments for a condominium that belonged to, supposedly, Saadi Gadhafi."
None of the allegations against Vanier or Ben Aissa have been proven in court, and Vanier has always denied involvement in the alleged human smuggling plot.
She returned home to Canada in April after being jailed in Mexico for 18 months, accused of falsifying passports and leading a criminal plot to smuggle Gadhafi into the country. She was released after a Mexico court ruled her legal and human rights had been violated during the course of her arrest and prosecution.
Ben Aissa has not commented on the allegations and remains jailed in Switzerland where he is accused of laundering tens of millions of dollars from the Gadhafi regime. He is also facing prosecution on fraud charges in Canada over alleged payments tied to the construction of the McGill University Health Centre.
SNC cites Vanier emails as evidence
In its court filing, the company cites an RCMP warrant obtained to search SNC's Montreal headquarters in April 2012. It also cites emails that Vanier allegedly sent to Ben Aissa's financial controller, Stephane Roy, that allegedly lay out details of a plan to smuggle the son of Libya's then dictator out of the country, under false names, to a new life in hiding.
'We believe that there were illegal acts committed with funds that belong to SNC Lavalin.' —Company spokesperson Leslie Quinton
SNC asserts that Vanier was hired under a fake contract and was not on a "fact finding" mission to Libya in July 2011, but rather used that as a cover story.
"Gary [Peters, her body guard and a Saadi Gadhafi employee] made contact last night and his expecting another call back sometime today," states an email from July 13, 2011, according to the SNC court filing.
"There is another way to do this to completely take your people off the planning or involvement.. However there would be additional costs. We have the ability to use another route that would mean that we do not go near TUNIS at all.. Straight into where we need to be.. No hassles…(seriously)," states another email in the company court filing.
SNC alleges Vanier sent Roy another email on August 23, after returning to Canada from Libya.
"Also to cover my butt … can you send me the signature page of the mediation agreement … I don't have to show it ... But in the event we have to backtrack on this … Paper trail supports intent ... And the confidentiality is protected for all concerned," the email from the SNC court motion says.
SNC claims on August 26, Vanier sent Roy a series of emails confirming that she had been working on the plan for months with her bodyguard Gary Peters, an Australian who has subsequently been deported from Canada due to his ties with the Gadhafi dictatorship.
"Here are some of the emails from early February," Vanier wrote, cutting and pasting materials in an email to Roy, according to the SNC motion record. "The plan in the beginning before your involvement was to try to get him to Canada … (prior to the sanctions against his travel) ... As you know shortly after this time period things deteriorated very quickly and we lost the window to bring him to Canada. (that was our first option initially). The email that started this discussion is the one at the bottom ..."
Vanier has called emails 'fabrications'
CBC News could not reach Vanier for immediate comment. She has granted only one interview since her return from Mexico to her home in Mount Forest, Ont.
In May, she told Linden McIntyre, the host of CBC's investigative program the fifth estate, "those emails were not written by me" when confronted with copies of materials filed in court by the RCMP.
"If those emails existed, they would've been on the SNC server, they'd be on my server. They don't exist," she said.
Vanier stated that Mexican authorities also relied on anonymous, trumped-up evidence during their prosecution of her.
"What we have learned from this situation in Mexico, fabricating emails and communication trails through email, is a very easy thing for criminals to do. Is it the easiest thing in the world for them to do and we've learned a lot about that. Unfortunately for the wrong reasons. So, with 100 per cent certainty, they are not emails that exist on my server or that exist on the SNC Server and were never part of anything that I was involved with."
While jailed in Mexico, Vanier told CBC News she intended to sue SNC, claiming her work was a legitimate effort to help the company fly employees back into Libya once the civil war subsided. She has yet to file any such claim.