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SNC vows co-operation in Algerian bribery scandal

A pedestrian walks past the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., headquarters in Montreal, in this file photo.

© Christinne Muschi / Reuters/REUTERS

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has taken out a full-page ad in an Algerian newspaper touting its full co-operation with authorities and its desire to see justice done in the bribery scandal the company is caught up in.

The open letter signed by SNC president and chief executive officer Robert Card and executive vice-president Charles Chebl says the engineering and construction giant is "determined to turn the page on this unfortunate chapter" in its 102-year history, while also taking note of the "lessons learned."

The Montreal-based company remains committed to helping develop Algeria's economy in a context of implementation of "its new rules of ethics and compliance," the letter published in the francophone daily El-Watan says.

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SNC is available to "fully co-operate" with authorities in their investigations and urges its employees to do the same, it adds.

"We understand that certain inquiries may lead to difficult conclusions, but these are necessary in order to fix the problems and ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions," it says.

The company also says it reserves its rights to assert claims against any individuals found guilty, including the recovery of funds.

Investigators in Switzerland are looking into allegations that several oil and gas service companies, including SNC, used an alleged bribe facilitator named Farid Bedjaoui to secure contracts with Algeria's state-run oil company, Sonatrach.

Mr. Bedjaoui, an Algerian consultant who was educated in Montreal and has occasionally resided there, is suspected of being a conduit for more than $200-million in suspicious payments, possibly bribes.

The nephew of former Algerian foreign affairs minister Mohammed Bedjaoui, Farid Bedjaoui is one of several foreign agents hired by SNC who are suspected of allegedly paying bribes.

SNC has confirmed that it paid several companies "involved" with Farid Bedjaoui but has declined to say how many or much.

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The company has done about $6-billion worth of business in Algeria.

"Algeria is an important country for SNC-Lavalin -- this is in fact the first country where SNC-Lavalin began its work on an international scale many decades ago," SNC spokesperson Leslie Quinton said in an e-mail message Tuesday.

"There have been a series of rumours and allegations regarding us circulating locally and we wished to reiterate to the people of Algeria our desire for transparency, our commitment to and progress in ethics and good governance, and to strengthen our working relationships."

Other SNC-related probes are looking into alleged financial misconduct in Libya and Bangladesh, as well as relating to construction of a new super hospital in Montreal.

Former SNC president and CEO Pierre Duhaime as well as former vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa have been charged with fraud, conspiracy and forgery in relation to the $1.3-billion contract to build McGill University's new hospital.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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SNC has put in place several measures, including hiring a former Siemens executive to oversee matters of ethics and corporate governance, and a strengthening of internal measures to ensure ethical behaviour at all corporate levels.

Last December, the company took out full-page newspaper ads in Canada – signed by outgoing chairman Gwyn Morgan and Mr. Card – to explain new measures implemented to ensure no financial impropriety takes place in the future.

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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