UPDATE: Feb. 10, 2019: The independent body that provides oversight for public construction work in Quebec has banned four SNC-Lavalin subsidiaries from bidding on publicly funded projects in the province until Jan. 17, 2025.
The Autorité des marchés publics (AMP), citing infractions under Canada's criminal code, barred the following companies from bidding on work, effective Feb. 5, 2020.
- SNC-Lavalin Construction (Atlantic) Inc. in Hanwell, New Brunswick
- SNC-Lavalin Construction (Ontario) Inc. in Toronto
- SNC-Lavalin Construction Inc. in Montreal
- SNC-Lavalin Exploitation Inc. in Montreal
An AMP spokesperson told the Financial Post that the ban was automatic after SNC-Lavalin pleaded guilty in December. AMP said that there are two other subsidiaries affected as well. An SNC-Lavalin representative told the Post that the company did not expect the ban to have a long-term impact on its business.
- A Court of Quebec judge in Montreal has sentenced Sami Bebawi, a former SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. executive, to eight-and-a-half years in prison after a jury found him guilty in December of fraud, corruption of foreign officials and laundering proceeds of crime, Global News reported. Bebawi's crimes were related to SNC-Lavalin's operations in Lybia during the 2000s.
- During Bebawi's tenure at SNC-Lavalin, the company transferred approximately $113 million Canadian dollars to shell companies to pay individuals, including former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's son Saadi Gaddafi, in connection with several infrastructure projects. After the kickbacks were paid, Bebawi and a colleague, Riadh Ben Aissa, split the money that was left, with Bebawi's cut estimated at CA$26 million (U.S. $19.8 million).
- In a deal struck soon after Bebawi's December conviction, SNC-Lavalin Construction Inc., a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin Group, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud. All other charges, including those against SNC-Lavalin Group and its international marketing arm SNC-Lavalin International, were dropped. SNC-Lavalin Construction will also pay a fine of CA$280 million via payments spread out over five years and must complete three years of probation. The company will also engage and pay for an independent monitor.
In its 2019-2020 Global Fraud and Risk Report: Regional Focus — Middle East, risk solution provider Kroll found that conditions in that area of the world are particularly ripe for fraud. About 35% of respondents from the Middle East said that they had experienced an act of fraud by internal parties, like employees, within the last 12 months, with 33% experiencing fraud by external sources and 29% reporting bribery and corruption. The global average for these same incidents are 27%, 28% and 23% respectively.
Globally, Kroll found that 70% of the construction industry views bribery and corruption as top concerns but only 51% felt that the controls in place would be effective at stopping these types of fraud. Even so, bribery and corruption are No. 5 on the list of risk or fraud incidents that construction industry players faced in the year prior to Kroll's survey. No. 1 was leaks of internal information followed by disruption due to sanctions, tariffs, changes in trade agreements, etc.; damage to their reputation due to a third-party relationship; and adversarial social media activity.
The requirement that SNC-Lavalin Construction retain an independent monitor, in some situations also referred to as an integrity monitor, isn't unusual given the severity of the accusations against the company.
An integrity monitor sometimes is required when a contractor has run afoul of the terms of its contract but the letting agency wants to give the contractor more work. These breaches can include prevailing wage, minority certification and other such violations. Once the arrangement is in place, an integrity monitor will observe the company's processes, inspect documents or whatever else is necessary to ensure that the firm is adhering to its contract requirements.
For a more proactive approach, monitors also take on clients who want to minimize their risk in general without a mandate from a public agency. In these cases, the monitor would perform duties such as review the contractor's change order process, examine budget line items versus actual costs and evaluate worker safety credentials.