Canadian Jury Finds Former SNC-Lavalin Executive Guilty on Fraud, Corruption Charges

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A jury in Montreal found a former

SNC-Lavalin

Group Inc. executive guilty of corruption-related charges in a case that examined the Montreal firm’s past activities in Libya, which were at the center of a political firestorm earlier this year.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction firm now awaits its own trial on fraud and corruption charges. Canada’s ethics watchdog ruled earlier this year that Prime Minister

Justin Trudeau

broke the country’s conflict-of-interest laws when he and his aides pressed his then-attorney general to intervene in the case and secure an out-of-court settlement for the firm.

Mr. Trudeau’s involvement in the matter, which was first reported in February, triggered a scandal that forced the resignation of top government officials and hurt the prime minister’s reputation on the domestic and global stage. The damage to his popularity was a contributing factor, political analysts say, to Mr. Trudeau winning only a minority-government mandate in this past fall’s election.

The conviction of

Sami Bebawi,

73 years old, on Sunday followed a six-week trial in Montreal. Mr. Bebawi, a former vice president at SNC-Lavalin, was accused of participating in a kickback scheme that helped the company obtain construction contracts in Libya. He was found guilty on all five charges he faced, including fraud, corruption, money laundering and possession of proceeds of crime.

A sentencing hearing will be held on Thursday.

Mr. Bebawi’s lawyers had denied the allegations against him. They said Mr. Bebawi’s former subordinate,

Riadh Ben Aissa,

was in charge of SNC-Lavalin’s business in Libya at the time of the alleged wrongdoing and had enjoyed the full support of the firm’s chief executive.

Mr. Ben Aissa pleaded guilty in a Swiss court in 2014 to corruption-related charges in connection with SNC-Lavalin’s activities in Libya, and was given a three-year sentence. Mr. Ben Aissa was a witness in Mr. Bebawi’s trial.

The trial against SNC-Lavalin is separate from Mr. Bebawi’s case. It is expected to go forward in the coming months, with the company’s next court appearance scheduled for Dec. 18.

Canadian police in 2015 charged SNC-Lavalin, its construction division and a subsidiary with fraud and bribery. Police said at the time the company offered nearly $48 million Canadian dollars (about $36 million) in bribes to Libyan government officials under the regime of former leader Col.

Moammar Gadhafi,

and defrauded Libyan organizations of about C$130 million. The charges cover a period between 2001 and 2011.

A guilty verdict in the company’s trial could prevent SNC-Lavalin from bidding on government contracts in Canada and abroad.

An SNC-Lavalin spokesman said last week that the company is focused on its business and defending the company and stakeholder interests through the court process.

The Canadian government still has the ability to order prosecutors to seek an out-of-court settlement for the firm. Attorney General

David Lametti

hasn’t ruled out that possibility, despite the political controversy that unfolded earlier this year. A spokeswoman for Mr. Lametti said last week it would be inappropriate for the attorney general to comment on the possibility of a settlement deal for SNC-Lavalin because the company’s case is before the courts.

Write to Kim Mackrael at [email protected]

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