Former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, an autocrat who led his country for 23 years before being toppled by protests that unleashed a wave of revolt across the Arab world, has died aged 83.
[March 5 2012 SNC-Lavalin: Besides Libya, Syria and Tunisia shenanigans ]
Engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group (SNC) cryptic announcement that it was investigating $35 million in irregular payments and “certain other contracts.” Certain other contracts? Like, say, the links that SNC might have with Syria? Among those who have been fired in recent weeks is Nawaf Al Dandachi, an estimator who sent an invitation to a rally last June in support of Syrian leader Bashar Assad. While SNC has no projects in Syria, a spokeswoman says the company has a $13.5 million contract to design a pipeline that will run through the country.
In June, al Dandachi sent out an invitation to a rally to support Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, timed to coincide with an anti-Assad rally across the street.
“Syria will resist the people trying to sow inter-faith conflict,” read the email, with al Dandachi’s title and address at SNC Lavalin attached. Eight months later, on Feb. 6, al Dandachi, who had previously been on contract with SNC-Lavalin, was offered a permanent position and a $12,000 raise. Then on Feb. 25, he was terminated without notice.
Leslie Quinton, vice-president in charge of global communications, would not say why al Dandachi was fired. SNC-Lavalin currently has no contracts in Syria, she said. But it did win a $13.5-million contract to design and do feasibility studies on a pipeline to take Iraqi oil through Syria, expected to be completed in 2016.
Then there’s the news, reported by CBC, that another SNC executive had been given power-of-attorney over some property held by the son-in-law of Tunisia’s deposed president, Ben Ali. , Radio-Canada’s Enquête revealed that another SNC-Lavalin executive, vice-president Kebir Ratnani, who worked under Ben Aissa, had been given power of attorney over the Westmount property of Sakher el Materi, deposed Tunisian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali’s son-in-law. The property was bought in 2008 for $2.5 million cash, and Ratnani was put in charge of the $2 million in renovations for it.
(The city of Westmount wanted to auction off that property in December to cover unpaid taxes on the mansion, but was told by the RCMP it would be illegal under new legislation to freeze the assets of “politically exposed people” linked to the Ben Ali regime.)
And investors have also learned, courtesy of the CBC, that Canada’s former ambassador to Tunisia now works for SNC, while the husband of the country’s ambassador to Libya was hired to work on the human-rights-friendly prison.
Quebec City-based law firm Siskinds, Desmeules said Friday it launched the suit in the Quebec Superior Court. It seeks $250 million in damages.
The suit alleges that SNC and certain members of its senior management team “were engaged in unlawful activities in Libya” over a period of nearly three years, contrary to statements made by the company.
SNC-Lavalin’s troubles began when its name surfaced in connection with a Canadian consultant, Cynthia Vanier, who was arrested in Mexico on suspicion she had tried to smuggle members of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s family into Mexico at the tail end of the war to overthrow the Gadhafi regime.
Secret or dishonest activity or maneuvering.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;