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Switzerland OKs Ben Aissa extradition to Canada

Former SNC-Lavalin executive Riadh Ben Aissa is being sent from Switzerland back to Canada to corruption charges.

Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court ruled in favor of a request from Canada’s Department of Justice for Ben Aissa’s extradition.

The request was made in January and first approved in May, the National Post said. Since then, Ben Aissa has appealed but lost a final ruling.

He’s wanted for fraud, bribery, and money laundering in connection with two projects in Canada, the National Post said.

Ben Aissa has been in Swiss custody for 17 months.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police prepared an affidavit in April 2012 alleging that he arranged more than $160 million in bribes to the son of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi in exchange for engineering contracts.

The 59-page police affidavit was used to secure a search warrant for SNC-Lavalin’s headquarters in Montreal.

In November 2012, the former CEO of SNC-Lavalin was arrested in Canada for fraud and forgery.

Pierre Duhaime left the company earlier in 2012 after an internal audit found more than $50 million in payments to middlemen that couldn’t be traced to the performance of any services.

A contract to build the giant McGill University Health Centre in Montreal was part of the probe.

Swiss authorities jailed Ben Aissa in April 2012 on suspicion of money laundering and bribery linked to the Canada projects.

Two other executives from SNC-Lavalin were charged in Toronto last year with bribing officials in Bangladesh in connection with bidding for the $1.2 billion Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh.

Ramesh Shah and Mohammad Ismail were arrested after a police raid on SNC-Lavalin’s offices.

Saadi Gaddafi allegedly used some of the money to buy two yachts and to renovate a luxury penthouse condo in Toronto.

In July, SNC-Lavalin filed a civil lawsuit against Ben Aissa in Quebec to recover more than $2 million. Some of the money allegedly went to a contractor who plotted to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi and his family out of Libya in 2011. The suit also seeks to recover money paid to a design firm involved in Gaddafi’s condo renovation.

Ben Aissa, a Tunisian-Canadian, ran SNC-Lavalin’s construction division.

In April, the World Bank barred SNC-Lavalin from bank-funded projects for ten years because of alleged corruption in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Libya, and Algeria.

Through cross-debarment agreements, World Bank sanctions are also imposed by the Asia Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

In their ruling, the Swiss judges said, ‘It appears that the presumed criminal activity has very tight links with Canada in a way that one can consider that the centre of this took place in that country.’

‘The links that this matter have with Switzerland appear on the other hand to be weaker and are limited to the transit of money or subsequent payments,’ they said.

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Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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