01/25/2013 04:57 EST | Updated 03/27/2013 05:12 EDT

SNC Lavalin paid $160M in Libyan bribes, RCMP allege

Employees of SNC Lavalin are accused of paying $160 million in bribes to get business for the Canadian engineering giant in Libya, including the purchase of luxury yachts for the son of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, a newly released RCMP search warrant says.

The warrant, which allowed the RCMP and Swiss authorities to raid SNC's Montreal headquarters last April, also details the search for evidence of plans to move Saadi Gadhafi surreptitiously to Mexico, with the help of Canadian consultant Cynthia Vanier.

Vanier has been languishing in a Mexican jail for almost 15 months since questions about an attempted smuggling emerged.

An SNC Lavalin spokeswoman, Leslie Quinton, said the release "contains information and unproven allegations received by the authorities in an investigation and submitted to a judge to obtain a search warrant."

"We wish to resolve this situation quickly before the courts," Quinton wrote, "and will continue to do everything possible to help authorities get to the bottom of things as quickly as possible."

But the warrant quotes emails RCMP say are from Vanier to Stephane Roy, an SNC controller and vice-president at the time, suggesting if the company wanted to remove its name from the dubious ventures of extracting Saadi Gadhafi from Libya, "there is another way to do this. However there would be additional costs."

There are also references to emails between Roy and Vanier concerning the creation of false identities for Saadi Gadhafi and his family.

Vanier is expected to make her formal statement to a Mexican court next week in response to charges she masterminded an attempt at smuggling the Gadhafi family into Mexico, conspiracy and the creation of false documents.

She has long maintained her innocence to CBC News, and says the allegations sound "like something out of a Tom Clancy movie, or Tom Clancy book. But absolutely not! One, I would never have the capacity to do that. Two, I would never contemplate doing anything like that. It's an illegal activity. I've never committed an illegal act in my life and nor would I have ever entertained anything like that."

Warrant singles out former SNC VP

According to the warrant, the man who orchestrated most dealings with Saadi Gadhafi was Riadh Ben Aissa, SNC's executive vice-president of construction, who had access to offshore bank accounts that directed money to Gadhafi's accounts in places like Milan, Malta and Geneva using companies based in the British Virgin Islands.

"It is alleged that these sums of money were paid as compensation for having influenced the granting of major contracts to SNC-Lavalin Int.," wrote RCMP Cpl. Brenda Makad, who executed the warrant.

RCMP were looking for information about construction projects successfully won by SNC, including Great Man-Made River dam, the Benghazi airport, rehabilitation of Benghazi Lake and the controversial prison known as Judicial City.

SNC earned hundreds of millions of dollars on these deals, and was still engaged in Libyan projects when civil war broke out in 2011.

Ben Aissa is also alleged to have directed his controller, Roy, to purchase and renovate a condominium for Saadi in Toronto, and to treat him like a king on his visits to Canada. Other expenses included the purchase of yachts, including one now on sale for $28 million.

Ben Aissa and Roy resigned from SNC last February, and Ben Aissa was arrested in Switzerland two months later for money laundering. He remains in custody, but he has denied all wrongdoing through his lawyers.

As for SNC, its press release said many of the allegations in the warrant were news to its employees. But the company said its "commitment to ethical behaviour and the highest standards in governance, compliance and accountability is unwavering."

It added, "We continue to improve and strengthen our processes throughout the company."

Send tips on this story to dave.seglins(at) or john.nicol(at)