Skip to content

SNC-Lavalin saga resurfaces after election with filing of new bribery charges

Former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Normand Morin and former SNC-Lavalin International Inc. vice-president Kamal Francis have been released from custody and are due to appear in a Montreal court on Sept. 27 along with representatives from SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International.
20210923090952-614c87396d052a981a771173jpeg
The SNC-Lavalin headquarters is seen in Montreal on Feb. 12, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

The SNC-Lavalin legal saga was thrust back into the spotlight Thursday after the RCMP announced they've charged two former executives and the engineering company itself for allegedly paying bribes to obtain a Montreal bridge repair contract.

Former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Normand Morin and former SNC-Lavalin International Inc. vice-president Kamal Francis, along with SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiary, have each been charged with forgery, conspiracy to commit forgery, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud against the government, and conspiracy to commit fraud against the government.

The charges are the result of a long and complex investigation that saw evidence gathered over a number of years, RCMP Inspector Denis Beaudoin said in a statement.

The charges date back to events that took place between 1997 and 2004. Michel Fournier, former president and CEO of the Federal Bridge Corp., admitted to receiving bribes from SNC-Lavalin worth $2.23 million related to a $128-million Jacques-Cartier Bridge repair project. Fournier was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison in 2017.

The two former executives have been released from custody and are due to appear in a Montreal court on Sept. 27 along with representatives from SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International.

The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) has agreed to send an invitation to negotiate a remedial agreement with SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International Inc. The invitation went out on Thursday morning. The offer was not made to both executives.  

An agreement will allow SNC-Lavalin to continue doing business with the governments of Quebec, Canada and abroad. 

"It also reduces the negative consequences on employees, retirees, customers and shareholders of organizations," said the DPCP in a statement.   

SNC-Lavalin said it has read the documents related to the announcement and expects to respond later.

SNC-Lavalin was previously charged with bribery and fraud in relation to its past work in Libya, which was at the centre of the high-profile 2019 battle between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould.

In December 2019, the company reached an agreement in which its construction division pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud while other charges related to acts committed in Libya between 2001 and 2011 were set aside. This was accompanied by a $280-million fine. The company was able to retain the right to bid on federal government contracts.

SNC-Lavalin was an issue during the 2019 federal election and surfaced again in the 2021 election after Wilson-Raybould wrote a tell-all book that touched on the criminal prosecution of the company and her testimony that senior party leaders wanted her to stop the case for political reasons.

Trudeau said during the recent campaign that the matter had been thoroughly dissected in parliamentary committee hearings, newspaper articles, and other testimony prior to the last federal election. He said the RCMP had never contacted him regarding the SNC affair.

The Liberals went on to win another minority government on Sept. 20.

SNC-Lavalin shares lost 93 cents or 2.5 per cent at $36 in late morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:SNC)

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press