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Canada Former SNC-Lavalin executive charged under foreign bribery law

SNC-Lavalin offices in downtown Montreal. A former senior executive of SNC-Lavalin has been charged criminally under Canada’s foreign bribery law in connection with alleged bribes to Bangladeshi officials.

Mario Beauregard/The Canadian Press

A former senior SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. executive who oversaw the company's bid to supervise the construction of a six-kilometre bridge in Bangladesh – a project that is stalled amid allegations of corruption – has been charged criminally under Canada's foreign bribery law.

Kevin Wallace, 46, was arrested on Monday and released under conditions.

The RCMP also laid bribery charges against two others who they allege were part of a conspiracy to bribe Bangladeshi officials to steer the $50-million contract toward SNC. Those individuals, Zulfiquar Ali Bhuiyan, a Canadian citizen, and Abdul Hasan Chowdhury, are believed to be out of Canada, a police source said. They were not SNC employees.

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Mr. Wallace is the third former official of SNC-Lavalin to be charged under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act in relation to the Padma Bridge, a project that World Bank president Jim Yong Kim has called a "steel lifeline" to link impoverished southwest Bangladesh with the capital of Dhaka. Despite the high hopes, the project has become mired in controversy.

The World Bank pulled its $1.2-billion (U.S.) loan after corruption allegations emerged, and sharply criticized the Bangladeshi government for not adequately responding to the scandal.

The first criminal charges in the case came about 18 months ago, when a specialized RCMP unit tasked with focusing on sensitive and foreign corruption cases charged two former lower-level SNC-Lavalin officials in connection with the alleged bribery conspiracy.

Ramesh Shah and Mohammad Ismail have already undergone a preliminary inquiry and are expected to fight the charges at trial.

Scott Fenton, a criminal defence lawyer who represents Mr. Wallace, said in a statement that he has "serious concerns" about the RCMP's decision to charge the former executive so long after the first charges were laid.

"No new evidence has come forward. Mr. Wallace maintains that he is innocent and he will fight to clear his good name," Mr. Fenton said.

Mr. Wallace left the Montreal-based engineering giant in December, 2012, amid an overhaul of the company's top offices precipitated by multiple police investigations around the world. In addition to the Bangladesh bridge project, former SNC officials have been accused of paying bribes in connection with a new Montreal hospital site worth $1.3-billion (Canadian) and to numerous government officials in North African countries, such as a Libya, Tunisia and Algeria.

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SNC's former chief executive, Pierre Duhaime, faces multiple charges in connection with an alleged $22.5-million bribe that police say was funnelled to hospital administrators to ensure the company won the contract to build the McGill University Health Centre.

In a statement about the new charges, SNC-Lavalin said: "We are eager to reach a resolution regarding all issues related to this subject and will continue to support the authorities in their investigations."

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