Canada’s elections watchdog has laid charges against a former executive of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. accusing him of orchestrating the illegal federal political donations the company made.
Former company vice-president Normand Morin faces five counts under the Canada Elections Act of circumventing Ottawa’s political financing rules by orchestrating illegal corporate donations through company employees and their families and concealing the real source of the money.
Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin has been engulfed in corruption and bribery scandals reaching back about 14 years amid allegations company executives paid cash to gain advantage with public officials to win billions of dollars in engineering and construction contracts in Canada and around the world.
Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté announced the charges on Thursday, saying his agency has concluded its investigation into one part of the scandal. Mr. Morin, 76, retired from the company in 2004 and could not be reached on Thursday. He is expected in Quebec Court to face the charges June 27.
A corporate biography of Mr. Morin says he worked for 35 years and oversaw some of the biggest SNC-Lavalin projects around the world.
In 2016, the Liberal and Conservative parties were forced to reimburse the government $117,803 for illegal donations they received from SNC-Lavalin’s political slush fund. SNC-Lavalin, in turn, signed a compliance agreement with the elections watchdog committing to taking internal steps to prevent illegal donations.
Mr. Côté’s statement on Thursday said the allegations against Mr. Morin span from March, 2004, to May, 2011, and the charges “conclude the Commissioner’s investigation into SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.” If convicted, he faces a maximum of one year in prison and a $20,000 fine.
The investigation found senior company executives illegally donated $83,534 to the Liberal Party of Canada; $13,552 to various Liberal riding associations; $12,529 to contestants involved in the 2006 Liberal leadership race; $3,137 to the Conservative Party; and $5,050 to Conservative riding associations.
The company also made more than $1-million in illegal donations to Quebec political parties, mostly Quebec Liberals, over two decades. As in the federal case, the company had managers and family members make personal donations to parties that were then reimbursed by the company through salary bonuses. Corporate donations were illegal at the provincial and federal level.
Court documents published in 2014 alleged Mr. Morin personally delivered illegal corporate donations to Liberal Premier Jean Charest’s political fundraiser, Marc Bibeau, in 2004.
The Quebec donations were exposed by the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption in political donations and the construction industry that reported in 2015. The inquiry’s mandate did not allow it to delve into federal cases.
In December, the company reached confidential agreements with the province and seven municipalities, including Montreal, to repay undisclosed sums to compensate for illegal political donations.
“We are very pleased to have reached a settlement,” Neil Bruce, president and chief executive officer of SNC-Lavalin, said in a statement when the agreements were concluded. “For the last few years now, SNC-Lavalin has publicly said on numerous occasions that it is willing to work to reach an agreement, and we are proud to have achieved this important step.”
In a separate corruption case, ex-SNC-Lavalin officials including former company president and CEO Pierre Duhaime, ex-construction division president Riadh Ben Aissa and former controller Stéphane Roy are facing charges of fraud in connection with the construction of a Montreal hospital.