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Former SNC-Lavalin chief pleads guilty in bribery case

Pierre Duhaime (Image courtesy of Montreal Council on Foreign Relations)Former SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime pleaded guilty Friday to helping a public servant commit breach of trust.

Following his plea, Duhaime, 64, was sentenced to 20 months house arrest and 240 hours of community service.

Fourteen other charges he faced were dropped.

Duhaime was set to go on trial this week for the bribery scandal around construction of a $1.3 billion super-hospital in Montreal.

SNC-Lavalin, Canada’s biggest engineering and construction management firm, has been mired for years in allegations of domestic and foreign bribery.

In 2012, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police filed an affidavit that tied former SNC-Lavalin executive Riadh Ben Aissa to more than $160 million in alleged bribes paid to Libyan officials in exchange for contracts.

Swiss authorities arrested Ben Aissa and held him for 29 months. They released him as part of a 2014 plea deal after he forfeited about $40 million in cash and property.

In 2013, the World Bank barred SNC-Lavalin from bank-funded projects for ten years because of alleged corruption in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

In October last year, federal prosecutors in Canada said they wouldn’t negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin to resolve criminal fraud and corruption charges related to Libya.

Prosecutors charged the company and two subsidiaries for the Libya graft in February 2015.

The board fired Duhaime from his $5 million-a-year CEO post in March 2012. An independent review had discovered he approved $56-million in payments to undisclosed agents.

SNC-Lavalin said in December that “ongoing legal challenges” have caused it to shrink from 20,000 employees in 2013 to 8,500 today.

But it said that since 2012 it has built a world-class ethics and compliance program, cooperated fully with regulatory and government authorities, changed its board, management, and key personnel, and settled class actions in Quebec and Ontario filed on behalf of security holders.

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Richard L. Cassin is editor at large of the FCPA Blog.

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