The list included upgrades to short- and long-range radar as part of North America’s air defences; improvements at three Belgian military bases; expansion of “American military dock facilities” in Newfoundland; refurbishment of a NATO data centre for air operations; and support for Canadian troops in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
SNC also described its work building and maintaining Canada’s naval fleet; establishing safe warehouses for weapons; and constructing storage spaces for Canada’s submarines and light-armoured vehicles.
The proposal recommended a joint venture between SNC and Mr. Gadhafi’s Corps of Engineers. An organization chart suggested that the joint-stock company would supervise three teams: one responsible for infrastructure and industrial projects; another for specialized tasks such as telecommunications; and a third team of “secured personnel” for military projects.
The military team would be “tailored to meet the specific military security, execution and deployment requirements of the office of the Commander-in-Chief of Engineers of Libya,” the proposal says.
Documents show that the Canadians followed up their proposal a month later, with a delegation to Libya headed by SNC-Lavalin vice-president André Béland. Minutes from their meeting with Libyan officials on Dec. 14, 2008, show the Canadians offered help with the basic structure of the Corps and pushed their idea about a joint venture. The first item on the agenda, according to the minutes, was SNC touting its skills related to “modern and developed methods in managing and executing strategic projects in Libya, either military or civil.”
SNC wanted to split the startup costs 50-50 with the Libyans, but the two sides eventually settled on a 60-40 split, with the Canadian company providing the bigger share of capital.
Enter the heavy hitters
As an initial step, the Libyans intended to purchase SNC’s expertise with a six-month consulting job, worth $1-million, the details of which were spelled out in a technical services agreement dated Jan. 9, 2009. The agreement notes that the Corps would require the services of five SNC-Lavalin consultants, each of them with impressive resumés.
Retired Vice-Admiral Buck’s resume says that he joined the Canadian navy in 1967 and became its commander in 2001. Shortly after his appointment as Chief of the Maritime Staff he was thrust into a lead role in Canada’s largest naval deployment since the Korean War, as ships responded to the 9/11 attacks.
In 2004, he was appointed Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, responsible for allocating a $12.1-billion military budget. His solid reputation made him a leading contender for the top job in Canada’s military, but he was passed over in favour of General Rick Hillier in 2005.
Another retired officer joined the vice-admiral on the consulting team: Gary Wiseman, chief of staff for SNC-Lavalin Defence Contractors, whose resumé describes 25 years of military service. As Chief Engineer of the Defence Industrial Taskforce, he represented Canada’s Defence Department during U.S.-Canada free-trade negotiations in the 1980s and later served on the Treasury Board.
The rest of the team included Peter Langlais, general manager of SNC-Lavalin Defence Contractors; Armand Couture, an engineer and former partner at Lavalin who also previously worked as president of Hydro-Quebec; and Mr. Béland, an engineer who specializes in water projects.
The agreement copy obtained by The Globe and Mail is unsigned, but the document indicates that Saadi Gadhafi would sign for the Libyans and that Canadian heavy hitters would be tasked with drawing up an organizational chart for the Corps. It also described the qualifications necessary for candidates in each job and setting out “procedures for the efficient operation of the Corps of Engineers.”
Canada’s own export controls include restrictions on “instruction, skills, training, working knowledge, [and]consulting services,” for foreign militaries, and any such services exported should appear in the government’s regular updates on military exports. The $1-million SNC consulting job is not listed in the 2007-2009 report, which shows that no Canadian companies gave any such assistance to Libya during that period. This may indicate that SNC did not report its activity, never performed the work, or received an informal ruling from Canadian bureaucrats that the job didn’t fall under the regulations.
More than a year after the initial proposal, Mr. Gadhafi asked SNC again for another appraisal of the unit, according to a letter from an SNC executive dated March 4, 2010.