Defence goes after key witness’ credibility in SNC-Lavalin corruption trial

A key witness told the jury in the SNC-Lavalin trial that he contacted the Canadian government to ask for help in getting money from delinquent accounts for work in Libya.

Jason Unrau Montreal QC

Counsel for former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Sami Bebawi, on trial for charges related to business dealings in Libya, attempted to poke holes in the Crown’s star witness’s story about events involving the now-failed North African state and its deceased dictator.

Bebawi has pleaded not guilty to eight charges including fraud, corruption, money laundering, and bribery of foreign officials, including notorious Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his playboy son Saadi.

After four days of testimony under Crown examination, Riadh Ben Aissa, who copped a related plea deal in exchange for his cooperation, told the court during day one of the defence’s cross that he tried to get the Canadian government to assist with delinquent accounts involving multi-million dollar contracts.

On Monday, Ben Aissa told the jury that Bebawi leaned on him hard to recoup cash any way possible after SNC-Lavalin was not getting paid by the Gaddafi regime for a multi-million dollar contract arranged in the early 2000s.

Wednesday, Bebawi testified that before he set up a shell company in British Virgin Islands where 50 percent of this outstanding cash was funnelled before being divvied between players, including Gaddafi, he asked the Canadian government for help.

Ben Aissa had previously testified that 50 percent of this money was funnelled to Duval Securities Inc. that he registered in the British Virgin Islands, then divvied up between the players, including Gaddafi.

The Crown said it intends to prove that SNC-Lavalin ultimately transferred more than $113 million to this offshore company.

The jury has also heard from Ben Aissa that cultivating a relationship to ensure a steady stream of contracts for the Quebec-based, global engineering firm, involved a luxury yacht shopping trip in 2007 with Saadi Gaddafi in the South of France.

According to Bebawi, SNC-Lavalin eventually contracted an American ship building to construct a custom $25 million boat Muammar’s son.

As reported by Postmedia on Wednesday, defence lawyer Alexandre Bien-Aimé disputed many of Ben Aissa’s claims, including whether a key meeting with Bebawi in Cairo where the boss allegedly pressured to recoup the cash, unconcerned about the method.

Bien-Aimé also questioned Ben Aissa’s explanation of how the circumstances surrounding his first contact with Gadhafi and how involved Bebawi was with SNC-Lavalin’s business in Libya.

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