A 2008 meeting between then-Quebec health minister Philippe Couillard and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s playboy son Saadi, a purported “SNC-Lavalin University” tutorial the company arranged for the dictator’s progeny, was short and unproductive says Couillard.
In a statement issued Thursday, Couillard describes the scheduled one-hour, information session about “operating principles of a modern healthcare system” as “brief”.
“I have received no compensation or consideration from any intervener, had no other contact with this individual, and have never been contacted by the authorities,” wrote Couillard, adding he would offer no further comment.
The confab came to light after SNC-Lavalin copped a plea deal Thursday for bribery and corruption charges it faced over dealings with Libya between 2001 and 2011. Following that, preliminary inquiry evidence subject to a publication ban was unsealed.
The deal came on the heels of guilty verdicts for former SNC-Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi following a six-week jury trial for fraud, bribery and money laundering for his part in the scheme to secure valuable contracts with the regime.
In an earlier interview with Le Devoir Couillard, who went on to be Quebec’s premier between 2014 and 2018 described the younger Gaddafi as inattentive and indifferent.
“It only lasted 20 minutes. We talked about health, primary care, prevention, but, listen, I had very little listening, I quickly realized that it was not really interesting the gentleman,” he told the Montreal paper.
According to unsealed court evidence, former Conservative Senator Hugh Segal was slated to give two days’ instruction on Canadian foreign policy.
Joël Gauthier, then-chair for the defunct Agence métropolitaine des transports (AMT), also turns up–tapped to give a half-day course on public transit.
This six-week crash course in statecraft, public health, transport, pensions and banking was to prepare Saadi for a job with SNC-Lavalin as its “Vice-President Maghreb”.
It went hand-in-hand with a temporary work permit the Quebec-based engineering firm was trying to secure for their new hire; Saadi’s place of work is listed on the application as SNC-Lavalin’s Montreal head office.
Gilles Laramée, then-executive vice-president and chief financial officer, felt the idea to develop a 45-day, in-house training course was “genius” and convinced then-CEO Jacques Lamarre, who ultimately green-lit “SNC-Lavalin University”.
“This initiative is an exceptional opportunity to help [Saadi Gaddafi] whose country we know well and where we wish to continue to contribute to the development of its infrastructure and its economy in general,” writes Mr. Laramée in an email sent to several employees.
Royal Bank of Canada and Quebec’s public pension planners Caisse de Dépôt are also among the “SNC-University” instructors listed for Saadi.
Previous reports on the scale of bribery and kickbacks indicate the young Gaddafi’s interests were more hedonistic than scholarly. For the three months he was in Canada between February and May 2008, he indulged in SNC-Lavalin subsidized prostitutes, private parties, condo decorators and concerts.
In a 2013 interview with French broadcaster Enquête, Lamarre, who resigned in 2009, said he was glad to finally see the backend of Saadi Gaddafi.
“When he left, I was so happy. He hadn’t done too many stupid things,” said Lamarre.
“However, we had an invoice of almost $ 2 million. I was extremely angry, the council was angry. Everyone was angry.”
Segal did not respond to Post Millennial‘s request for comment on his involvement or whether the Canadian foreign policy tutorial with Saadi ever took place.
SNC-Lavalin’s legal woes related to Libya ultimately beset Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s after a February 7, 2019, the Globe and Mail story alleged then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould lost her job over it.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s Trudeau II Report corroborates Wilson-Raybould’s version of events and concludes Trudeau broke conflict of interest law by pressuring her, repeatedly through the fall of 2018 to defer SNC-Lavalin’s charges to remediation.
Deferred prosecution agreements, or remediation for alleged corporate crime, were a new criminal code provision included earlier that year in the federal budget bill, after heavy SNC-Lavalin lobbying efforts.
In the end, Wilson-Raybould refused to budge and the ensuing scandal saw Trudeau boot her from the Liberal Party’s national caucus following the resignations of his top advisor Gerald Butts and the nation’s top civil servant; then-Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.
While SNC-Lavalin’s attempt to get deferred prosecution to avoid a 10-year ban on bidding for federal contracts, the wording of the plea deal–that SNC committed the fraud against Libya and not Canada–are aimed at achieving the same thing.
“The fraud was committed against Libya, so that’s the out,” Jennifer Quaid, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, told the Financial Post.
“This was not an accident, this was a very carefully crafted plea. That was the thought and that was the effect.”
SNC-Lavalin’s plea deal will also cost the firm $280 million in fines.
UPDATE: In an email to TPM, retired Senator Hugh Segal writes: “I have never met with any member of the Gaddafi family, nor spoken with them or communicated with them in any way.”