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Former SNC-Lavalin chief Duhaime formally charged with fraud

Michel Massicotte, defence lawyer for Pierre Duhaime, speaks to reporters at the courthouse in Montreal, Feb. 11, 2013.

Christinne Muschi/Christinne Muschi/The Globe and

Pierre Duhaime, the former chief executive officer of Canada's biggest engineering firm, has been granted more flexibility to travel within the country pending trial on fraud charges.

Mr. Duhaime, a prominent Quebec businessman and once the head of engineering powerhouse SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., was formally charged with fraud on Monday.

He was not in the courtroom as his lawyer, Michel Massicotte, pleaded not guilty on his behalf.

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A change was made to conditions surrounding Mr. Duhaime's release. Initially, he was forbidden from leaving Quebec. The Crown has now agreed he can travel elsewhere in Canada – but not go beyond its borders.

"We asked that his conditions permit him to go across Canada for purposes of work, to give him better opportunities and it was considered to be a reasonable alternative," Mr. Massicotte said outside the courtroom.

Mr. Duhaime faces charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and issuing false documents.

Mr. Massicotte says Mr. Duhaime is currently not working.

The next date in the case has been set for May 23 when Mr. Massicotte is expected to receive more evidence.

Mr. Duhaime and another former top executive, Riadh Ben Aissa, face charges stemming from a contract involving the building of the multibillion-dollar McGill University Health Centre.

The charge sheet alleges the infractions took place between April 30, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2011.

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Mr. Duhaime was relieved of his duties in March, 2012, after an independent review showed he signed off on $56-million in payments to undisclosed agents.

Mr. Duhaime was arrested last November by Quebec's anti-corruption squad and released on a promise to appear on Monday. He was not required to be physically present in court.

Mr. Ben Aissa was arrested in April, 2012, in Switzerland and is awaiting a trial there on charges relating to corruption, fraud and money-laundering in North Africa.

Crown prosecutor Marie-Helene Giroux says it's unclear when Mr. Ben Aissa will be returned to Canada.

"There is an extradition request to have him sent back to Canada," she said.

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