Canadian police investigating SNC-Lavalin

Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:16pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Canadian police confirmed on Tuesday they are investigating engineering firm SNC-Lavalin after an internal company probe found $56 million in mysterious payments that were wrongly assigned to certain construction projects.

"As the investigation is currently ongoing, we will not comment on specific details," said Sergeant Marc Menard, head of media relations at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's "A" division.

SNC-Lavalin, one of the world's biggest engineering companies, said on Monday its chief executive had stepped down after an internal investigation found he had broken company rules by authorizing the payments.

In announcing the resignation of Chief Executive Pierre Duhaime, SNC said it was handing over material from its probe to Canadian authorities and police.

The Autorité des marchés financiers, the securities regulator for the province of Quebec, where SNC is based, said it was "exchanging information" with SNC and that the company was an "ongoing file".

SNC has said its former head of construction, Riadh Ben Aissa, who left SNC in February, may have "direct and significant knowledge" about most of the transactions. But the company has not been able to meet with him.

Canadian newspapers have in recent weeks linked Ben Aissa in an unflattering light to the family of deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. However, SNC said it believed the payments were not linked to Libya.

It is not the first time that SNC's business practices have come under the spotlight. Canadian police last September launched an investigation of SNC employees for possible corruption involving a $1.2 billion bridge project financed by the World Bank in Bangladesh.

SNC's stock ended nearly 1 percent higher at C$41.70 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday, bucking a weaker overall market.

(Reporting By Louise Egan in Ottawa and Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Peter Galloway)

Pedestrians walk past a sign for the head office of SNC Lavalin in downtown Montreal March 26, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi