SNC-Lavalin’s Bebawi guilty on all counts: Libyan bribery scandal

Benefactors of the largesse included the Libyan dictator’s son Saadi Gaddafi; showered with prostitutes, concert tickets and a $25 million yacht.

Jason Unrau Montreal QC

Former SNC-Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi was found guilty of five charges related to fraud, bribery and money laundering for his part in dealings with the former Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer said Bebawi was not a flight risk and that the 73-year-old would remain free until sentencing, following jury–verdicts in the six-week trial on Sunday.

Bebawi is the second Canadian convicted for crimes related to SNC-Lavalin’s business in Libya, conducted between 2001 and 2011.

The first was Riadh Ben Assai, who was convicted in Switzerland in 2014 and spent two years in jail there before cutting a plea deal with Canadian authorities to testify against his former colleague.

During Bebawi’s trial, Ben Aissa’s told the jury he set up a shell company in the British Virgin Islands where millions of dollars were funnelled to himself, Bebawi and Gaddafi insiders.

These insiders included the dictator’s son Saadi, who was showered with prostitutes, concert tickets, condo decorators and even a custom-built $25 million yacht.

In addition to being in on the scheme that involved bribes and gifts to secure lucrative contracts between the regime and SNC-Lavalin, Bebawi was accused of skimming upwards of $26 million off the top for himself.

The company still awaits trial for related charges; a matter which ultimately beset Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first government, after a February 7, 2019, Globe and Mail story alleged then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould lost her job over it.

In August, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s Trudeau II Report corroborated Wilson-Raybould’s version of events, concluding that a Trudeau broke conflict of interest law in 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 precipitated her excommunication from the Liberal Party’s national caucus and the resignation of Trudeau’s top advisor Gerald Butts and the nation’s top civil servant; then-Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.

The Québec construction firm and two of its subsidiaries remain accused of paying $48 million in bribes to Libyan officials and have opted for trial by judge.

If convicted, and without a deferred prosecution agreement, the company faces a 10-year bidding ban on federal contracts here in Canada.

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