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.