Quebec City-based law firm Siskinds, Desmeules said on Friday that it was suing Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin for $250 million on behalf . . .[restrict]of clients over the company’s activities in Libya.
It claimed that the Canadian company took part “in unlawful activities in Libya” over a period of nearly three years.
The suit has been launched in the Quebec Superior Court against certain of its present as well as former officials and directors.
The law firm alleges that they “made statements that were materially false and misleading in regard to SNC-Lavalin’s code of conduct, legal compliance, and internal controls.”
The case is being pursued on behalf of investors who bought SNC-Lavalin shares from 13 March, 2009, to 28 February, 2012.
Last Tuesday, SNC-Lavalin’s shares lost 20 per cent of their value following a company statement that it had launched an internal investigation into the “facts and circumstances” surrounding $35 million of payments made in the fourth quarter of 2011. On Wednesday, it fell another 2.7 percent.
The executive in charge of construction projects, Riadh Ben Aissa, left the firm last month amid questions about his ties to the Qaddafi family. He has threatened to sue the engineering and construction company for sullying his reputation.
At the beginning of last month, it was reported by the Toronto-based National Post that SNC-Lavalin had admitted that one of its executives was present in November when Mexican police arrested Cynthia Vanier, a Canadian, in Mexico City. She was later charged for her alleged role in a plot to smuggle Saadi Qaddafi into the country.
In a statement, the company said former vice-president and financial controller Stéphane Roy had travelled to Mexico City in November to meet Vanier.
“Mr. Roy has reported that he went to Mexico to meet with Ms. Vanier to discuss possible water treatment projects but was met by someone else,” Leslie Quinton, an SNC-Lavalin spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
“He reported he was present when the other person was detained and was asked the purpose of his visit by the authorities, which he stated was the possibility of water treatment projects, and to our knowledge, underwent no further questioning. We understand that there was no charge placed against him nor, to our knowledge, is he under investigation now.”
Like Aissa, Roy resigned from the company on 9 February.
It is being claimed that Vanier was by employed by SNC-Lavalin in July and sent to Libya to analyse the situation. However, it is also being suggested in some quarters that she was retained the company to help the Qaddafi family to flee.
Last Tuesday, the Australian private security contractor, Gary Peters, who lives in Canada and who has admitted helping Saadi to flee to Niger, was reportedly grilled by Canadian immigration officials about his links to SNC-Lavalin.
For almost five hours, the Canada Border Services Agency questioned him about SNC-Lavalin’s role in financing some of his international travels.
Peters is quoted as saying afterwards that the agency wanted to know “What trips they paid for, how much they paid, who paid, who was the contact. That’s what they were asking about that. How I got paid.”
The spreading scandal has now engulfed the Canadian embassy in Tripoli. Last week, CBC reported that Edis Zagorac, the husband of Canada’s ambassador, Sandra McCardell, was hired to work on SNC-Lavalin’s $275-million contract awarded by the Qaddafi regime to build a prison near Tripoli. It is alleged he began working for a joint-venture company chaired by Saadi Qaddafi — the Executing Agency of the Libyan Corps of Engineers — on 1 October 2009, less than three months after his wife took her post on July 20.
SNC-Lavelin also was awarded contracts by the Qaddafi regime to build an airport and an irrigation project.
There are also questions about the company’s links with the family of Tunisia’s deposed president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In January, Radio-Canada’s Enquete claimed that another SNC-Lavalin executive, vice-president Kebir Ratnani, had been given power of attorney over the Westmount property of Ben Ali’s son-in-law. It is also reported that the former Canadian ambassador to Tunisia, Bruno Picard, now works for SNC-Lavelin.