MONTREAL - A former SNC-Lavalin executive who worked with the jailed ex-head of the company's construction division has launched a nearly $1-million wrongful dismissal and defamation lawsuit against the Montreal-based engineering giant.
Stephane Roy said he was made a "scapegoat" and described as a "rogue employee" when he was fired a year ago despite always acting on the company's orders.
The former controller is seeking $930,000 in lost salary and benefits, including $100,000 in moral damages and for ruining his reputation. He also claims more than $270,000 worth of shares held in a stock option plan as of September when he tried to claim them.
Roy reported directly to Riadh Ben Aissa, who remains in custody in Switzerland on suspicion of laundering millions of dollars and bribing North African public officials. In Canada, Ben Aissa is accused, alongside former CEO Pierre Duhaime, with fraud relating to the construction of a new superhospital in Montreal.
Roy has never been charged but has been named in an RCMP affidavit with trying to smuggle former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saadi, and his family into Mexico.
None of the allegations against the former SNC-Lavalin officials has been tested in court.
In his lawsuit filed last week, Roy claimed that he always acted in good faith and in the best interests of his employer.
He said SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) created "a corporate culture where it was common practice to do all that was necessary, including the payment of 'commissions' and other benefits to obtain contracts, including in Libya."
Roy said he always followed the directives of senior executives, adding that the company made him a scapegoat by claiming to have fired him for just cause.
SNC-Lavalin spokeswoman Leslie Quinton said Roy was "terminated for cause in February 2012 for actions that were considered unacceptable and outside the scope of his official duties for the company."
"The company maintains that this decision was justified and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously," she said in an email.
Ben Aissa's brother, Rafik, has also filed a $5-million lawsuit in Quebec Superior Court alleging the company caused him harm for using his brother as a "scapegoat" while protecting its interests in Libya in the face of political change.
SNC-Lavalin also faces class action lawsuits seeking more than $1 billion on behalf of disgruntled shareholders in Ontario and Quebec.
SNC-Lavalin's shares have nearly fully recovered from the hit that wiped out about $2.5 billion worth of market value when it initially disclosed last year that an internal investigation uncovered $56 million of questionable payments to foreign agents, breaching the company's code of ethics.
On the Toronto Stock Exchange, its shares were down 55 cents, or 1.1 per cent, at $49.10 in morning trading.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Pierre Duhaime is the former CEO of Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/26/snc-lavalin-ceo-quits-pierre-duhaime_n_1379182.html">Duhaime resigned in March</a> after an internal investigation revealed some $56 million in questionable payments. He was arrested on Nov. 28, 2012. Duhaime served as an executive vice president at SNC Lavalin from 2003-2009 and CEO from 2009-2012. <a href="http://business.financialpost.com/2012/04/03/snc-lavalin-to-pay-exiting-ceo-close-to-5-million-in-severance/">According to the Financial Post</a>, Duhaime received $5 million in severance when he left. Photo: Graham Hughes/CP
Corruption At SNC Lavalin
SNC-Lavalin, one of Canada's largest engineering firms, has been under scrutiny for various corruption charges. A report stated that employees from the company <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/21/snc-lavalin-bribes_n_1617129.html">tried to bribe Bangladeshi officials.</a> The company also faces <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/25/snc-lavalin-case_n_2188620.html">a money-laundering probe from the Swiss authorities.</a>
How Big Is SNC-Lavalin?
<a href="http://www.snclavalin.com/index.php?lang=en">SNC-Lavalin</a> is one of the largest engineering firms in the world. In Canada they have worked on such well-known projects as Highway 407 in the GTA, the Montreal subway system and Calgary and Vancouver's light-rail systems.
Ties To Libya
The company came under fire for its work in Libya. A former SNC-Lavalin executive was accused of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/02/snc-lavalin-riadh-ben-aissa-libya-gadhafi_n_1469993.html">funneling cash to the Gaddafi family.</a> The Globe and Mail did an <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/snc-lavalins-gadhafi-disaster-the-inside-story/article4570115/?page=all">in-depth look at the company's long relationship with Libya.</a> In a 2011 interview with Macleans magazine, <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/04/11/on-diplomacy-through-capitalism-his-firms-projects-in-libya-and-the-future-of-nuclear-power/">Duhaime defended the company's work with the despotic regime</a> including building a prison.
Against Quebec Corruption Probe
Duhaime <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/19/quebec-construction-corruption-snc-lavalin_n_970661.html">spoke out in 2011 against a public inquiry into corruption</a> in Quebec's construction sector. "What is surprising is that the report touches so many areas with so few facts. It surprised me to see a report with so little substance but so many allusions," he said to the Canadian Club in Montreal in September, 2011. Photo: CP Files