A spokeswoman for the Swiss government says Riadh Ben Aissa is accused of fraud and corruption.
Jacqueline Buhlman says in an email to The Canadian Press that the allegations are in connection with alleged business dealings in northern Africa, but won't comment further.
Aissa was the executive vice-president of construction, but parted ways with the company earlier this year along with another SNC executive.
The departures coincided with the results of an internal company investigation into $35 million of payments that SNC (TSX:SNC) said breached its code of ethics.
Aissa's Montreal lawyer was not immediately available for comment on his client's arrest.
SNC has been the subject of two RCMP raids on its offices in the past seven months as the Mounties looked for evidence on the mysterious payments.
The company has said that it didn't believe the payments in question were related to its operations in Libya. SNC was one of the major Canadian companies doing business in the North African country prior to the fall of Moammar Gadhafi last year.
RCMP conducted a raid of the company's Toronto-area offices last September in connection with an investigation into bidding on projects in Bangladesh.
SNC-Lavalin has offices across Canada and in more than 40 other countries. It is currently doing work in some 100 countries.