SNC-Lavalin shell company received nearly $120 million: Forensic accountant in trial

Charges against the former SNC-Lavalin exec’s dealings with Saadi and Muammar Gaddafi allegedly involve massive bribes and kickbacks in exchange for valuable contracts.

Jason Unrau Montreal QC

Duvel Securities, a shell company that former SNC-Lavalin executive Riadh Ben Aissa set up in British Virgin Islands, received nearly $120 million, according to a forensic accountant who analyzed the Quebec firm’s financial statements.

Sophie Déry, hired by RCMP to audit SNC-Lavalin’s business activity in Libya between 2001 and 2011, told jury members at Quebec Superior Court on Monday that from Duvel, $14 million was transferred to former vice-president Sami Bebawi, another $11 million to his uncle.

Bebawi has pleaded not guilty to eight charges, including fraud, corruption, money laundering, and bribery of foreign officials related to business dealings between SNC-Lavalin and the Libyan regime of the late-dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The Crown also alleges that Bebawi orchestrated the arrangement and benefitted personally to the tune of $26 million.

Corroborating previous testimony given by Ben Aissa, Déry told the jury $27 million (Aissa said it was $25 million) was used to furnish Gaddafi’s son Saadi a custom-built yacht.

In 2012, Swiss police arrested Ben Aissa and he pleaded guilty for money-laundering and spent two years in prison there.

The charges and guilty plea caused RCMP to open an investigation, which cleared the way for Aissa’s extradition to Canada where he cut a plea deal last summer and in exchange for a lighter sentence – 51 months for forging documents – agreed to testify against his old boss.

In its fourth week, the trial has included testimony from former SNC-Lavalin chief financial officer Gilles Laramée and Paul Beaudry, a former SNC finance VP, among their revelations did not deny a custom yacht was purchased for Saadi, just who bore responsibility for it.

Earlier in the trial Ben Aissa told the jury Bebawi and Laramée were appraised of the yacht, while last week Beaudry claimed Laramée called to say he knew nothing about it.

Charges against Bebawi are related, but separate from concurrent legal proceedings against the firm itself, which opted for trial by judge in June of this year in a case has yet to go to trial.

The Crown’s case against Bebawi is focused on relationships SNC-Lavalin cultivated with Saadi and Muammar Gaddafi, involving million-dollar bribes and kickbacks to maintain a pipeline of valuable contracts for the Québec-based engineering firm.

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