Friday, October 05, 2012

Follow the Money Trail: Infrastructure contract goes to Corporation under Domestic & International Police Investigation

Hold on here. As taxpayers we need to be examining every nook and cranny over the latest gigantic transportation infrastructure contract that has been awarded to SNC-Lavalin. Currently this corporation is under investigation, both in Canada and also internationally, for allegations of bribery in connection with infrastructure contracts being awarded overseas and in Quebec.

Looks like SNC-Lavalin has been a faithful funder of the BC Liberals, handing over a nominal $27,647 from May 2005 to November 2011 according to Elections BC reports of financial contributions.

Is it possible we have another B.C. Rail on our hands? How did the bidding process go down? What are the exact terms of the contract? Is SNC-Lavalin going to be having money problems in the future? How will this impact provincial and federal taxpayers?

See below for more details about SNC-Lavalin and share my growing concern about this project. 

In the mean-time a credible source has told me that while this project is being amped up, massive cuts are coming to transit services and transit staff across the Metro Vancouver region. Things are chaotic internally as staff don't know when the axe is falling and who is going to be pruned, but everyone knows its coming. 


Security contractor with Gaddafi ties grilled over links to SNC-Lavalin
National Post, Feb 29, 2012.  

The Ontario private security contractor who helped dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s family flee Libya during last year’s revolution was grilled by Canadian immigration officials Tuesday about his ties to SNC-Lavalin.

Gary Peters spent almost five hours at the Canada Border Services Agency offices in Mississauga, Ont., where he was questioned about the Montreal-based engineering giant’s role in financing some of his international travels.

Asked what the CBSA officers wanted to know about SNC-Lavalin, Mr. Peters replied: “What trips they paid for, how much they paid, who paid, who was the contact. That’s what they were asking about that. How I got paid.”

SNC-Lavalin announced earlier on Tuesday it had launched an independent investigation into $35-million worth of improperly documented payments related to construction projects “and certain other contracts” in the last quarter of 2011.

The payments “were documented to construction projects to which they did not relate,” the company said in a news release. SNC-Lavalin lost 20% of its market value in a single trading session on Tuesday.

News of the audit came almost three weeks after SNC-Lavalin announced the departure of executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa, who oversaw the company’s Libyan operations, and his accountant, St├ęphane Roy. Mr. Ben Aissa declined to comment on the audit.


A brief history of SNC-Lavalin: One of the world's largest construction and engineering firms under scrutiny 

CBC News, Apr 30, 2012. Excerpts:

SNC-Lavalin has been in the news recently regarding corruption allegations in Bangladesh and Libya after results of an internal investigation showing $56 million in mysterious payments became public in March 2012.

The allegations are that SNC made a series of unauthorized payments to undisclosed agents connected to the company's operations in Libya.

Those operations include what the company calls, "the largest civil engineering project ever-conceived," a 4,000-kilometre pipeline to bring water from underground aquifers in the southern desert to Libyan cities in the north.

In September, RCMP raided SNC-Lavalin's offices near Toronto in connection with a corruption probe into the Padma bridge project in Bangladesh. The World Bank's anti-graft unit had provided information to the RCMP.

The next month, the World Bank suspended a $1.2 billion loan it had offered to Bangladesh for the project.

Then in April, the World Bank temporarily banned an SNC-Lavalin subsidiary from bidding on new bank contracts. SNC-Lavalin was to supervise the contractor for the bridge on behalf of the Bangladesh government.

The company's name had also surfaced in connection with Canadian consultant Cyndy Vanier, who is accused of masterminding a plot to smuggle members of Libya's Gadhafi family into Mexico. Vanier has been in jail in Mexico since October 2011.

On April 20, Standard and Poor's revised its outlook for SNC-Lavalin to negative because of the news about the company.

On April 30, the company's share price closed at $37.14. Although up for the day, the shares are down 38 per cent from their 52-week high on July 5, 2011.


Police probe McGill hospital contract awarded to SNC Lavalin

The Globe and Mail, Sep. 18 2012. 

Quebec’s police task force on corruption is probing how a billion-dollar contract for a Montreal mega-hospital was awarded to a consortium led by Montreal engineering giant SNC Lavalin Group Inc.

The police raids conducted at McGill University Health Centre headquarters Tuesday morning threaten to tarnish one of Canada’s landmark private-sector bids to build public infrastructure, while also enhancing the climate of suspicion surrounding Quebec’s construction industry. The spotlight has already prompted the province to launch a corruption inquiry and contributed to this month’s ouster of Jean Charest’s Liberal government.

The police probe further suggests that SNC Lavalin, lately under scrutiny for its dealings overseas, could be facing heightened attention at home. Up until six months ago, the hospital project had been overseen by Riadh Ben Aissa, the former head of SNC’s construction division, and the central figure in an ongoing scandal.

In April, Mr. Ben Aissa was jailed in Switzerland, without charge, on allegations that he was involved in corrupt payments to public officials in North African countries where SNC has done business. As of early September, he was still incarcerated.


Ex-spy watchdog reportedly under microscope as anti-corruption squad raids hospital office, probes SNC-Lavalin contract

Brian Hutchinson, Sep 20, 2012, National Post.

When Quebec’s anti-corruption police squad raided the McGill University Health Centre’s (MUHC’s) downtown Montreal headquarters on Tuesday, looking for evidence of alleged wrongdoing in a public-private partnership contract awarded to a consortium led by SNC Lavalin Group Inc., they might have peeked inside a large corner suite on the 14th floor.

The space was recently occupied by Arthur Porter, the MUHC’s director-general until business controversies and questions about his commitment to routine administrative duties exploded late last year. MUHC is one of Canada’s largest public health care providers with almost 12,000 employees. The SNC-Lavalin consortium is building the MUHC’s new $1.3-billion hospital in Montreal’s west side and will help operate the facility for decades, according to the terms of a deal it finalized in 2010, during Dr. Porter’s tenure.

“Investigators have detected something fishy in the way the $1.3-billion contract was awarded that could shake the MUHC’s very foundation,”  Montreal’s Gazette declared Wednesday. According to an unconfirmed report from Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper, police are scrutinizing Dr. Porter himself.


SNC-Lavalin wins contract to build Evergreen Line

Oct. 5, 2012. Business in Vancouver.

SNC-Lavalin Inc., the company that built the Canada Line, has won the bid to design, build and finance the Evergreen Line.

SNC-Lavalin was one of three companies shortlisted in tendering bid. The other two were EL Partners and Kiewit/Flatiron.

The $1.4 billion project will be financed by the B.C. and federal governments – which are contributing $583 million and $417 million respectively – and TransLink, which will pay the remaining $400 million.

The new 11-kilometre light rail system will link Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam. It will run from Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby to Douglas College in Coquitlam.

The system will include a two-kilometre bored tunnel and seven stations. It will link with the existing SkyTrain system via the Millennium Line and will connect to the Expo Line, Canada Line, West Coast Express and regional buses.