SNC-Lavalin says recoups some funds in corruption case

Wed Oct 1, 2014 12:27pm EDT
 
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TORONTO Oct 1 (Reuters) - SNC-Lavalin Group Inc said on Wednesday it has recovered some funds it lost to former company executive Riadh Ben Aissa and could sue him for more after a Swiss court accepted his guilty pleas to money-laundering and other criminal charges.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction company, one of the world's largest, said it was pleased to have recovered some money and preserves the right "to assert other civil claims against Mr. Ben Aissa in the future, including for the recovery of additional funds".

It did not say how much it had recovered.

SNC said it has also been recognized as an injured party in the proceedings, being held in the Federal Crime Court of Switzerland.

Canadian media reports said Ben Aissa faces almost immediate extradition back to Canada where other criminal charges tied to a kickback scheme for a C$1.3 billion ($1.16 billion) hospital construction contract in Montreal await.

The court ruling is the latest development in a far-reaching ethics and corruption scandal, which erupted in 2012 after SNC uncovered tens of millions of dollars in mysterious payments made by company officials. That discovery led to the departure of, and charges against, its former chief executive.

SNC, which launched an ethics and compliance program following the scandal, reiterated on Wednesday that it is committed to clean business practices and to protecting the company from fraud in the future.

Ben Aissa, a former SNC vice-president in charge of construction, left the company in February 2012 and was arrested on money laundering and corruption charges in Switzerland two months later.

According to a 2013 affidavit, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Ben Aissa allegedly paid bribes to the son of slain Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, in exchange for major contracts in Libya. The RCMP allegations were based on information from Swiss anti-corruption investigators.

($1=0.7928 euro)

($1=$1.1178 Canadian) (Reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; and Peter Galloway)