03/13/2013 10:19 EDT | Updated 05/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Former SNC-Lavalin exec investigated for alleged bribery

Swiss authorities are investigating a former SNC-Lavalin executive they suspect may have taken part in bribing Libya's Ghadafi regime, according to Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête.

Investigators are taking a look at Sami Bebawi, the predecessor of Riadh Ben Aissa, who has been detained in Switzerland for allegedly bribing one of deceased Libyan dictator Moammar Ghadafi's sons, reports Enquête.

Bebawi is the owner of a small project management firm in Montreal, according to Canadian Business magazine.

In the early 2000s, Ben Aissa obtained more than $1 billion in contracts for SNC-Lavalin in Libya but allegedly kept some of the money for himself.

According to documents obtained by Radio-Canada, Ben Aissa and his former boss, Bebawi, allegedly pocketed $4 million each from a contract between SNC-Lavalin and Duvel Securities.

In November 2012, Swiss public broadcaster RTS reported Ben Aissa set up Duvel Securities and another company, Dinova Securities, and registered them in the British Virgin Islands.

Ben Aissa was charged with laundering vast sums of money tied to at least $139 million in mysterious payments to Duvel.

RTS reported that investigators were probing millions of dollars in payments from SNC-Lavalin to the companies' Swiss bank accounts dating back as early as 2001.

Bebawi was in charge of SNC-Lavalin's international construction division until 2006 and answered directly to the company's former president, Jacques Lamarre.

Lamarre told Enquête he was unaware that Bebawi and Ben Aissa were allegedly taking funds.

"If I knew that, I would have kicked Riadh and Sami out," he said.

Bebawi was interrogated by Swiss investigators who promised he would be allowed to return to Canada.

Those investigators said he refused to answer questions about the money he received.

Bebawi has not returned Radio-Canada's calls.

Several SNC-Lavalin employees said they were aware of the alleged scheme. A former manager, whose identity Enquête agreed to protect, said the company's upper management must have been aware of the transactions.

"For a while, Mr. Bebawi would get some of the commissions for the work he started in the past," he said. "I can't imagine [management] didn't know when we knew [of the alleged scheme] at our level."

Swiss authorities are also trying to trace $139 million in payments deposited in numbered accounts that reportedly served to hide bribes and personal commissions.