SNC-Lavalin, Canada’s flagship engineering company, had once hoped to persuade Ottawa officials to let a Libyan dictator’s son come to Canada as a temporary foreign worker, newly unsealed court documents show.
Five years ago, Saadi Gadhafi, the now 39-year-old son of despot Moammar Gadhafi, was being touted as a potential “vice-president” for SNC, with the multinational expressing hope of bringing him to its Montreal headquarters for the “precious services” he had rendered to the company.
The paperwork was filed before both SNC and the Gadhafi family fell on relatively hard times. The immigration forms for Mr. Gadhafi, now a fugitive wanted by Interpol “for allegedly misappropriating properties through force and armed intimidation,” were recovered by the RCMP during raids related to its corruption investigation against SNC.
In the RCMP filings it is unclear whether any government official in Canada ever actually received or vetted an immigration application for Saadi Gadhafi, who is known to have legally visited Canada several times during the 2000s.
But the federal government “never received a work permit application for Al-Saadi Gadhafi,” according to an email that Citizenship and Immigration spokeswoman Nancy Caron wrote to The Globe.
News of Mr. Gadhafi’s immigration application arrives at a time of controversy for Canada’s temporary foreign worker program.
The number of foreign workers inside the country has tripled during the past 12 years, raising questions about how much scrutiny Ottawa has brought to bear on applications.
A sworn affidavit relating to RCMP anti-corruption raids of SNC materials was unsealed by a Quebec court this week. Mounties say they have recovered forms suggesting that SNC had been planning to pay Mr. Gadhafi $150,000 a year over three years if he were allowed to come to Canada.
The immigration forms date back to March, 2008 – when SNC and Mr. Gadhafi had filled out paperwork for a “temporary work permit” in hopes of him getting into Canada under either the federal or Quebec government’s immigration program, according to the RCMP.
The paperwork was addressed to immigration officials at the Canadian embassy in Tunisia. The Mounties say that the Gadhafi application was backstopped by Riadh Ben Aissa, an SNC executive posted to Libya in the early 2000s. (For the past year, Mr. Ben Aissa has been jailed in Switzerland on allegations that he illegally funnelled construction-contract money to North African leaders and himself.)
Mr. Ben Aissa and Mr. Gadhafi – who has a degree in civil engineering and unbeatable connections in Libya – are alleged to have had a symbiotic relationship. “The ‘precious services’ rendered by Al-Saadi Gadhafi in 2000/2001 contributed to SNC-Lavalin obtaining an important contract valued at $475,200,000 CAD for the operation and maintenance of the manufacture plant of water pipes in Sarir, Libya,” the RCMP affidavit says.
It adds that Mr. Ben Aissa “was fully aware that SNC-Lavalin had in the past benefited financially from Saadi Gahafi’s qualifications and close connections to the Gadhafi regime and [SNC-Lavalin] wanted to continue to benefit from Saadi Gadhafi’s intervention and co-operation.”
To that end, the Mounties say, Mr. Ben Aissi wrote a request “to obtain a temporary work permit for Al-Saadi Gahafi, who they wanted to hire for a period of three years as ‘Vice-President Maghreb.' ” (Maghreb is an Arabic word that serves as shorthand for all of northwest Africa.)
All of this predated the 2010 Arab Spring, a tumultuous series of revolutions in which populations in the Middle East and North Africa rose up against despotic rule.
In 2011, Mr. Gadhafi fled to neighbouring Niger and sought asylum there, in the weeks before a Libyan lynch mob captured and killed his dictator father. Shortly afterward, he became the subject of an Interpol Red Notice.
A group of people from Canada have been accused of helping Mr. Gadhafi flee his homeland.
Long-serving Gadhafi bodyguard Gary Peters, an Ontario security consultant recently deported from Canada to his native Australia, has gone public with his story about how he often entertained Mr. Gadhafi with parties and prostitutes during visits to Toronto, in the years before the dictator’s son beseeched him for help in escaping Libya.
Earlier this year, Canadian consultant Cynthia Vanier was released by Mexican officials who had jailed her for 18 months, on accusations that she was part of criminal conspiracy to spirit Mr. Gadhafi from Africa to Mexico.