Canadian Bribery Law Weak

Article excerpt

SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal-based engineering and construction firm, last week announced the appointment of Robert G. Card as president and chief executive officer to repair the firm's damaged reputation and unravel the ethical and political tangles in which it ensnared itself.

Mr. Card, who was undersecretary of energy in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2004, was hired away from the engineering and construction firm CH2M Hill of Englewood, Colorado, where he played a large role in designing and building the London Olympic athletic complex.

SNC-Lavalin badly needs a house-cleaning. Last November, Mexican police arrested Cynthia Vanier in Mexico City -- she remains in prison -- believing she had organized a possible escape from Libya for one of the sons of Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan strongman who had been an important client of SNC-Lavalin.

Ms. Vanier's boss, SNC-Lavalin construction chief Riadh Ben Aissa, said she was innocent, but then Swiss police arrested him for bribing public officials in North Africa and he was dismissed from SNC-Lavalin. Stephane Roy, vice-president of finance, quit at the same time.

CEO Pierre Duhaime said he knew nothing about the matter, but when auditors followed the paper trail they found he had authorized $56 million of unexplained payments by Mr. Ben Aissa. Mr. Duhaime resigned in March and SNC-Lavalin had been looking for a new CEO ever since.

SNC-Lavalin is a Canadian giant on the international construction and engineering stage. The company reported $7.2 billion in revenues and 28,100 employees in 2011. It is building highways in Alberta and Colombia, hospitals in France, an office tower in Monaco and airports in the Americas, Europe, Russia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.

It continues to operate the Highway 407 east-west bypass around Toronto and it builds nuclear power plants for Ontario. It works closely with governments, who are its main clients. …