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Report On Business SNC to receive compensation from ex-executive over bribery scandal

SNC-Lavalin offices in downtown Montreal.

Mario Beauregard/The Canadian Press Images

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has been recognized as a victim in the Switzerland bribery case against Riadh Ben Aissa and will receive compensation from the former executive, who has agreed to guilty pleas on charges of bribery, corruption and money laundering.

The decision of the Federal Crime Court of Switzerland is the culmination of a lengthy investigation that resulted in Mr. Ben Aissa's arrest in early 2012 and his imprisonment since then.

The RCMP, which have been working with Swiss authorities, alleged in an affidavit that Mr. Ben Aissa funnelled an estimated $160-million in corrupt payments from Montreal-based SNC to Saadi Gadhafi, the son of the late Libyan dictator, and other officials in North Africa in exchange for billions in engineering contracts.

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Mr. Ben Aissa, the former vice-president of construction at SNC, reached a deal with Swiss authorities in August and a panel of Swiss judges agreed to the plea agreement on Wednesday.

The judges' decision is expected to speed up Mr. Ben Aissa's extradition to Canada where he is wanted on corruption charges.

His extradition was sought in January for his part in an alleged $22.5-million bribery scheme with the former head of McGill University Health Centre, Arthur Porter, aimed at clinching the $1.3-billion contract to build a new super hospital in Montreal.

Total compensation from Mr. Ben Aissa is set at $16-million (Cdn.), SNC said in an email message Wednesday.

The company also has the right to "assert other civil claims against Mr. Ben Aissa in the future, including for the recovery of additional funds," SNC said in a news release.

The Ben Aissa case is part of a larger web of alleged improper activities at SNC, which has undertaken a massive overhaul and image makeover in the past few years under president and chief executive officer Robert Card, who replaced Pierre Duhaime in 2012. Mr. Duhaime faces charges of fraud, conspiracy and forgery in connection with the Montreal hospital allegations.

Police in the Swiss investigation said the money Mr. Ben Aissa was alleged to have defrauded SNC out of circulated through Swiss bank accounts.

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All told, seven former SNC executives and staff have been charged with a series of offences, including bribery and corruption, in Libya, Algeria, Bangladesh and Montreal.

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