Saadi plot in Mexico: $35 M “not related” to Gaddafi construction projects, 100-400K to Vanier?

 Riadh Ben Aissa

Riadh Ben Aissa

Cynthia Vanier

Cynthia Vanier


SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. said it is investigating the incorrect accounting of 35 million Canadian dollars (US$35 million) in payments it made, which the engineering-and-construction conglomerate said will reduce its fourth-quarter earnings.

In recent months, the Montreal-based company has been responding to Canadian media reports about its business in Libya under the regime of former leader Moammar Gadhafi. SNC earlier this month said two senior executives connected to work in Libya had left the company, though it hasn’t said why.

SNC on February 28 didn’t say whether the payments being investigated were related to its work in Libya. SNC stunned investors by announcing that a committee of its board of directors is reviewing $35-million in payments made late last year that had been tied to construction projects “to which they did not relate.”SNC built up a huge presence in Libya thanks largely to Mr. Ben Aissa’s close ties with Saadi. As a reward, SNC promoted him repeatedly, eventually making him one of the company’s top executives.

SNC built up a huge presence in Libya thanks largely to Mr. Ben Aissa’s close ties with Saadi. As a reward, SNC promoted him repeatedly, eventually making him one of the company’s top executives.

Mr. Ben Aissa helped establish the Libyan Corps of Engineers with Saadi in 2008, to work on a host of civilian and military projects. The projects included a $275-million prison near Tripoli for up to 4,000 inmates.

Among those who also worked on the prison project was Edis Zagorac, the husband of Canada’s ambassador to Libya, Sandra McCardell. Mr. Zagorac’s involvement in the project, first reported by CBC, has been confirmed in documents obtained by The Globe and Mail. His name is on a list of roughly 60 people involved in the prison. The list is headed “SNC Lavalin Construction” and each name carries an e-mail address with Mr. Zagorac’s “edis.zagorac@snclavalin.com”.

Ms. McCardell, who was appointed ambassador in 2009, sought guidance from the Department of Foreign Affairs before her husband took the position,
[February 14]Canadian engineering firm SNC- Lavalin said late on February 9 that it has sacked two executives loosely linked to a failed plot to smuggle a son of ex-Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi into Mexico.

The pair became the focus of reports after Mexican officials announced charges in an elaborate plan to bring 38-year-old Saadi Gaddafi and other relatives into Mexico on false papers last year at the height of pro-democracy protests in Libya.

SNC-Lavalin, which oversaw billions of dollars worth of projects in Libya including the construction of a prison, said in a statement that Riadh Ben Aissa, executive vice-president of the firm’s construction arm, and vice-president in charge of finances Stephane Roy, were “no longer in the employ of the company, effective immediately.”

It added “that all employees must comply with our code of ethics and business conduct.”

Ben Aissa, a Tunisian-Canadian, said in a statement Friday that he had not been fired, but rather that he resigned, and that he would go to court “to restore my reputation.”

Roy had been placed at the scene of the arrest in November in Mexico City of accused conspirator Gabriela Davila Huerta.

He was invited to Mexico to meet with Cynthia Vanier, a Canadian also charged for her alleged role in the plot, to discuss “the possibility of water treatment projects,” company spokeswoman Leslie Quinton had told AFP.

However, SNC-Lavalin employees later told public broadcaster CBC that Roy had no responsibilities in this area.

Roy, said Quinton, “was asked the purpose of his visit by the authorities” in Mexico, but was not charged.

SNC-Lavalin had previously hired Vanier for “a fact-finding mission in early summer 2011 in order to establish the situation in Libya with the intent of resuming operations there,” Quinton said.

Mexican authorities charged Vanier, a Dane and two Mexicans on January 28 with attempted trafficking of undocumented people, organized crime and falsifying official documents. A fifth, fugitive suspect has not been identified.

Meanwhile Aissa, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, had flown Saadi Gaddafi’s bodyguard from Canada to Tunis where he and Aissa and Roy held a video conference with Saadi Gaddafi to discuss his movements.

The bodyguard then joined an armed convoy to escort Saadi Gaddafi to the border with Niger. After his father’s death during fighting with pro-democracy rebels, Saadi Gaddafi fled to Niger.

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About huecri

Publishing on the Web is a fairly iterative process. ...NYT ...Not too long ago, reporters were the guardians of scarce facts delivered at an appointed time to a passive audience. Today we are the managers of an overabundance of information and content, discovered, verified and delivered in partnership with active communities. summer 2012 issue of Nieman Reports from Harvard, --- THE FIX by Chris Cillizza, WAPO blogger, quoting Matt Drudge: “We have entered an era vibrating with the din of small voices,” he said in the speech. “Every citizen can be a reporter.” Later, he added: “The Net gives as much voice to a 13 year old computer geek like me as to a CEO or Speaker of the House. "
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