SNC-Lavalin corruption trial could prove more scandalous than Wilson-Raybould affair
SNC-Lavalin has opted for trial by judge in a case that could further damage the company’s image and the Liberal Party of Canada’s brand when the matter returns to court in September.
The Québec-based, global engineering firm stands accused of bribing Libyan officials with nearly $50 million between 2001-2011 to secure lucrative contracts in then-dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s troubled country.
The charges and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt to pressure his ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould into diverting criminal proceedings against SNC-Lavalin towards a remediation deal, sparked the biggest scandal the PM has weathered during his tenure.
His top advisor Gerald Butts resigned over the imbroglio and Trudeau excommunicated a pair of cabinet ministers from the party for disloyalty, including Wilson-Raybould but the evidence to come at SNC-Lavalin’s trial could be far more explosive.
Eighteen months before the United States lifted its designation of Libya as a state sponsor of terror – a designation it applied to the rogue state since 1979 – then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin flew to the country in December of 2004 with SNC-Lavalin brass to meet with Gaddafi.
“If you look at the statements from the Martin government at the time, they weren’t saying this Gaddafi was a good guy,” said Duff Conacher, founder of Democracy Watch. “They were saying that they thought they might be able to push him in the right direction if they engaged with the country.”
Their tête-à-tête inside Gaddafi’s Bedouin tent in the Libyan desert was under the pretense of opening the north African nation to large-scale business with SNC-Lavalin.
While economic engagement by liberal democracies with hostile regimes is described as the realist approach to foreign policy, getting cozy with Gaddafi was a big gamble. Before the internet, Osama bin Laden and Kim Jong Un, the Libyan dictator was an international bad-guy without equal.
After taking control of the oil-rich north African state in 1970, Gaddafi converted his desert fiefdom on the Mediterranean into a resort and training centre for some of the world’s most notorious terrorists and criminals.
In addition to providing haven and financing for the likes of the Irish Republican Army and Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, Gaddafi’s secret police partook in their own brand of global terrorism.
Libyan agents were accused of bombing a West Berlin nightclub in a 1986 attack that killed two U.S. serviceman and a Turkish soldier, while the most infamous act of Libyan-backed terrorism remains the murder of 270 people in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
In 2009 when Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan agent convicted of the crime was given clemency by Scotland and returned to Gaddafi’s country, he was given a hero’s welcome.
Little more than two years later, anti-Gaddafi regime rebels spurred by the ‘Arab Spring’ in Tunisia and Egypt, entered the Libyan capital of Tripoli and by October 20, 2011, Gaddafi had been captured and killed.
Errol Mendes is the former Director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, he also directs University of Ottawa’s common law school and is a specialist in international law.
Given Gaddafi’s outlaw status, Mendes suspects dealing with the dictator and his pernicious ways were always part of SNC-Lavalin’s risk metric.
“It was very well known that this was a corrupt regime. That (SNC) were potentially aware of that at the highest levels of the company and yet they went ahead” Mendes said. “(Then the investigations) suddenly amounted to an extremely serious crime for which the company should’ve fessed up rather than being found out.”
“And It wasn’t even in Canada where the fraud and bribery was discovered…it was Switzerland that found out.”
In 2012, the Swiss arrested SNC executive Riadh Ben Aissa who spent two years imprisoned there before pleading guilty to money laundering. This cleared the way for for extradition to Canada where Ben Aissa cut a plea deal last summer and was sentenced to 51 months in prison for forging documents.
Back in February, the case against a second SNC-Lavalin excutive Stéphane Roy, was thrown out of court on grounds it had taken too long to come to trial.
Roy’s fraud and bribery charges stemmed from an RCMP investigation in which he allegedly conspired with Ben Aissa to smuggle Gaddafi’s son out of Libya as civil war hastened the collapse of the family’s regime.
Documents related to Roy’s prosecution that were made public following the Crown’s abandonment of the case indicated that SNC-Lavalin paid tens of thousands of dollars to acquire prostitutes for Gaddafi’s son Saadi Gaddafi when he visited Canada in 2008.
Other payments made related to Saadi’s Canadian excursions included bodyguards, box seats to a Spice Girls concert and $200,000 to redecorate a condo the dictator’s son purchased in Toronto.
A Syrian refugee has become a Canadian citizen today and a celebration was held at Halifax’s Pier 21. Tareq Hadhad is the founder of Peace by Chocolate, a company out of Antigonish, N.S. that has been quite successful.
Tareq Hadhad was elated to be called up to officially receive his Canadian citizenship. “It’s the biggest day of my life, full of emotions, absolutely,” Hadhad said following the ceremony. He is the first of his family to become a Canadian citizen.
“It’s certainly an honour, I feel that I belong to this amazing nation. I feel that I am free and I will go out of this place so proudly saying that I am so honoured to be a Canadian at this moment.”
Hadhad will waste no time integrating himself into the Canadian culture, saying a top priority is to pick up “a double-double with a toonie and [fly] to watch a hockey game on the weekend.”
Making chocolate is a part of Hadhad’s family history as his father, Assam Hadhad, made chocolate back in Damascus for two decades, employing 30 people in his factory according to CBC. The factory was tragically bombed amid the turmoil and warfare.
Prior to the outbreak of war the company used to ship specialty treats across the Middle East.
Hadhad’s family settled in Antigonish in 2016 after fleeing from Syria. They opened Peace by Chocolate —which ships products throughout the country and employs about 55 people, including other refugees as well.
Marco Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship spoke at Wednesday’s ceremony, “With all the complexities in the world, I think this is just a wonderful silver lining and positive story. It demonstrates that immigration is a true hallmark of our history, but also the key to our future,”
Hadhad passed his Canadian citizenship test with a perfect score, a fact he proudly shared via Twitter. The post went viral, even attracting attention and congratulations from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Lucille Harper of Antigonish was instrumental in bringing the Hadhads to Canada. She was thrilled to see their successful immigration story. “It’s just all we could ever really hope for,” she said.
Hadhad’s family has applied for Canadian citizenship and they are hoping to be able to take the test within the next couple of months. Alaa Hadhad, Tareq’s sister said it would mean the world to her and her children to join Tareq’s family as Canadian citizens.
The long-standing Conservative Member of Parliament, Scott Reid, has aggressively criticized Peter MacKay on twitter after the former Harper minister announced his intention to run for the leadership.
After a day of speculation over his leadership intentions, MacKay tersely tweeted “I’m in. stay tuned.” Soon after this, Scott Reid, who represents Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, responded by saying, “Peter, let’s say you’re the leader, and 11 days before [election] day in the next election, a former cabinet minister informs the media that he’s organizing to replace you—just in case Trudeau wins. Can you confirm that you’ll be cool with that kind of writ-period input?”
Both during and after the election, MacKay spoke out aggressively against Scheer’s leadership. One incident that was particularly poignant, was when MacKay declared that social issues hung round Scheer’s neck like a “stinking albatross.” This came only days after the Conservative’s election defeat.
Reid, however, was referring to MacKay’s decision to lay the groundwork for a leadership bid before voters had even gone to the polls.
MacKay denied this story at the time.
Images appeared yesterday of what is being called the world’s first transgender doll.
The images, originating from a toy store called Planeta Igrushek (Planet Of Toys) in Novosibirsk, Siberia, show a doll that appears to be a blonde girl with pigtails, a dress, and a penis.
U.K. newspaper The Sun referred to the doll as a “forward-thinking toy” and reported that social media users were outraged: “Is it ok to produce toys like that for children?” one asked.
“All they have to do is buy a medical tool kit and the kid can learn how to amputate,” said another.
Another wrote: “I think it is really terrible what is going on in this child’s parent’s head.”
“Have you considered that it could simply be a manufacturing defect? Or they accidentally put a female head on a male body?” asked another user.
Conservative MP and leadership candidate Erin O’Toole showed his toughness on tackling crime by saying Canada should have “mandatory minimum” sentences for convicts.
He released a tweet commenting on the release of a child sex predator, where he said, “This sex offender committed 100+ crimes against dozens of kids. Courts sentenced him to 10yrs, but he’s out on parole after only 4yrs.”
He added, “Canada needs mandatory minimums for the most serious offences.”
O’Toole was commenting on the case of Gordon Stuckless, a convicted pedophile found to have sexually assaulted 18 boys. As the Toronto Sun reported, he was released on parole on Dec. 12, as was confirmed by documents from the National Parole Board. his sentence was increased last June to 10 years, up from a weaker sentence meted out in 2016 that was only a few years of prison time.