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Canadian police allege ex-SNC executive paid bribes to Gaddafi son

The head office of SNC Lavalin seen in downtown Montreal March 26, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
The head office of SNC Lavalin seen in downtown Montreal March 26, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

(Reuters) - A son of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi allegedly received 120 million euros ($162 million) in bribes for giving major contracts in Libya to SNC-Lavalin Inc, Canada's biggest engineering and construction company, a police document said on Friday.

According to an affidavit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police used to obtain a search warrant at SNC's head office last April, the bribes were paid, in a roundabout way, to Saadi Gaddafi by Riadh Ben Aissa, a vice-president at Montreal-based SNC at the time.

"It is alleged that this money (120 million euros) were paid him as a reward for influencing the awarding of major contracts to SNC-Lavalin Intl," RCMP officer Brenda Makad said in the affidavit. The document did not make clear when the alleged bribes occurred.

The 59-page RCMP statement, redacted in part, was released by the courts at the request of three Canadian newspapers, the Globe and Mail, the National Post and La Presse.

In an allegation based on information from Swiss anti-corruption investigators, Makad said SNC-Lavalin paid the money to offshore companies belonging to Ben Aissa, and the money was then transferred to offshore companies controlled by Saadi Gaddafi. Some money was used to buy yachts for the son of the slain dictator, the RCMP statement alleged.

SNC, which has said that any wrongdoing was the work of a small number of former employees, said it was seeing the affidavit for the first time and had not been aware of some of the information it contained.

"We cannot determine the veracity of certain allegations in the affidavit," SNC said in a statement. It said it was eager for the situation to be resolved and would do everything it could to help the authorities rapidly get to the bottom of those issues.

In the affidavit, Makad said an RCMP investigation had shown there was a genuine friendship between Saadi Gaddafi and Ben Aissa "and that over several years SNC-Lavalin, through Ben Aissa, offered bribes to the son of the dictator to secure the awarding of engineering/construction contracts in Libya."

Ben Aissa left SNC in February last year and is now in jail in Switzerland after being arrested on suspicion of money laundering. The Globe said he had not been charged with a crime but was in precautionary detention.

'SCAPEGOAT'

The National Post and the Globe and Mail have reported that Ben Aissa had denied any wrongdoing, while a brother, Rafik Benaissa, said in a statement in November that his brother Riadh had been made a "scapegoat."

The RCMP statement also said former SNC controller Stephane Roy paid money from his personal bank account for condo fees for an apartment belonging to Saadi Gaddafi, and was then reimbursed by his boss, Ben Aissa.

Makad said Roy also helped arrange for an outside consultant - who has denied wrongdoing - to make a fact-finding trip to Libya as the Libyan dictatorship was falling in 2011. She said she had reason to believe the real goal was to help get Saadi Gaddafi and his family out of Libya.

Initial attempts to reach Roy for comment were unsuccessful. The National Post reported in June that lawyers had been unable to locate him and that a judge ruled he might be not cooperating. Saadi Gaddafi is reported to have been granted asylum by Niger. None of the allegations in Makad's affidavit has been proven in court.

SNC, a C$7 billion-a-year company with operations in more than 100 countries, has been at the center of an ethics and corruption scandal for more than a year after it revealed it had uncovered tens of millions of dollars in mysterious payments it had made.

The company's previous chief executive resigned in March, and he was arrested later in the year on fraud charges. The charges have not been proven in court.

The 101-year-old company has installed a new CEO and several new executives and tightened its ethics policies.

The company's stock, which is down 15 percent in the past year, closed 25 Canadian cents lower at C$44.88 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday.

($1=$1.01 Canadian)

(Reporting by Randall Palmer in Ottawa and Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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