Canada firm with ties to Gathafi's Libya sacks chief executive
MONTREAL - The head of a Canadian engineering firm with dealings in Moamer Gathafi's Libya and loosely linked to a failed plot to smuggle the ex-leader's son into Mexico has quit, the company said Monday.
SNC Lavalin chief executive, Pierre Duhaime, is the third executive to leave the company in recent months. No reason was given for his departure after 23 years with the company.
Quarterly profits fell 52 percent in the last quarter, the Montreal-based firm also reported, and its share price dropped 30 percent over the last year.
Duhaime's resignation comes amid accusations he allowed $56 million in payments to "presumed agents hired," including one in Tunisia, despite the chief financial officer's objections.
An independent review traced two payments in December 2009 and July 2011 to Riadh Ben Aissa, executive vice-president of the firm's construction arm, who was fired last month along with vice president in charge of finances Stephane Roy.
Aissa had sought approval to hire agents to "secure work" in respect to two unspecified projects referred to as "A" and "B," the review found, but the amounts of $33.5 million and $22.5 million were "charged to contracts that didn't exist."
"The CEO's authorization of these payments did not comply with the (company's) agents policy and therefore was in breach of the code," it said.
"The CEO knew that agents were being hired by the former executive vice president construction... in unusual circumstances, and that the former EVP construction would cause their fees not to be charged to Projects A and B but rather to other projects."
The audit committee recommended "reinforcing standards of conduct, strengthening and improving internal controls and processes, and reviewing the compliance environment."
As well, the company said it "intends to separately report these matters to the appropriate authorities and to cooperate fully with such authorities with respect to these or any other matters."
Media reports previously linked Aissa and Roy to the arrest in Mexico of a Canadian woman accused in an elaborate plan to bring 38-year-old Saadi Gathafi, the ex-dictator's son, into Mexico on false papers at the height of pro-democracy protests in Libya last year.
SNC Lavalin, which oversaw billions of dollars worth of projects in Libya including the construction of a prison, previously hired the alleged conspirator, Cynthia Vanier, for "a fact-finding mission" in Libya in early summer 2011.
Mexican authorities charged Vanier, a Dane and two Mexicans on January 28 with attempted trafficking of undocumented people, organized crime and falsifying official documents.
Roy had been placed at the scene of the arrest in November in Mexico City of accused conspirator Gabriela Davila Huerta, but he was not detained.
Meanwhile Aissa, according to public broadcaster CBC, had flown Saadi Gathafi's bodyguard from Canada to Tunis where he and Aissa and Roy held a video conference last year with Saadi Gathafi to discuss his movements.
The bodyguard then joined an armed convoy to escort Saadi Gathafi to the border with Niger. After his father's death during fighting with pro-democracy rebels, Saadi Gathafi fled to Niger.
Board member Ian Bourne will take over as interim chief until a permanent replacement for Duhaime is found, said a statement.