Police raid offices of Canadian firm tied to Gaddafi

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Montreal (dpa) – Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators Friday executed search warrants at the headquarters of multinational engineering giant SNC-Lavalin in Montreal, which has been under scrutiny for its ties to the deposed Libyan regime of Moamer Gaddafi.

An SNC-Lavalin employee who asked not to be named told dpa that police officers arrived at the company’s downtown high rise building  headquarters around 9 am (1300 GMT) and evacuated the building.

SNC has confirmed the investigation, but neither the company or the police gave any information about possible arrests.

The company, which has projects in about 100 countries, came under intense scrutiny after its extensive ties to the Libyan regime of the late Moamer Gaddafi came to light following the Libyan revolution last year.

A woman who worked as a subcontractor to SNC, Cynthia Vanier, has been detained in a Mexican jail since November on allegations she tried to  smuggle a member of the Gaddafi family into Mexico.

In a statement posted on its website, the company confirmed that it is cooperating with police.

“The warrant relates to an investigation of certain individuals who are not or are no longer employed by the Company,” said the company. “Because the investigation is currently ongoing, SNC-Lavalin is not able to comment further at the moment.”

Last month, SNC-Lavalin chief Pierre Duhaime resigned after an internal probe found he had breached company policies by approving 56 million dollars in payments that SNC-Lavalin said were inappropriate.

Earlier in February, two SNC-Lavalin executives, Stephane Roy and Riadh ben Aissa, left the company after questions about their conduct related to the company’s work in Libya became the focus of public attention.

In recent years, SNC-Lavalin executives, particularly ben Aissa, had nurtured a close relationship with the Gaddafi family, landing profitable infrastructure contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including a 275-million-dollar deal to build a prison.

In November 2011, Mexican authorities arrested SNC-Lavalin consultant Vanier, a Canadian citizen, in connection with a plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, a son of the late leader, and members of his family from  Niger to Mexico.

Vanier, who has vehemently denied charges against her, was meeting with Roy when she was arrested in Mexico City.

In an exclusive interview broadcast this week on CBC News, Vanier said that two officers from the Canadian police’s commercial crime section visited her in the Mexican prison in mid-March.

She said they told her she was a witness and not a suspect, and they asked dozens of questions about her business dealings with SNC-Lavalin, specifically with Roy and ben Aissa.

Vanier was hired by SNC as a subcontractor to do a security assessment of company operations in Libya in July 2011.

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