SNC-Lavalin: Contacts with Libyan 'agent' shielded from supervision, Bebawi trial told

SNC-Lavalin had a thorough set of guidelines to regulate the company’s contracts with commercial agents that helped the firm secure business in foreign countries.

But when it came to its dealings in Libya, the person in charge of overseeing those contracts says she was often kept at a distance.

“(Riadh) Ben Aissa would tell me he was the one who had contact with the agent and he didn’t want me to try to contact them,” Marie-Josée Bérubé testified Tuesday during former SNC-Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi’s fraud and corruption trial.

“And what verifications did you do, if any, in terms of the agents’ identities,” Crown prosecutor Anne-Marie Manoukian asked Bérubé.

“Actually,” she answered, “the person who selected the agent … is the person who validated or who made the verifications required for that agent.”

Part of the Crown’s argument is that the “agent” in question was a shell company, Duvel Securities Inc., set up by Ben Aissa for Bebawi, who could authorize significant payments to agents.

Prosecutors say the company was also used to pay bribes for Saadi Gadhafi, son of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and that Bebawi pocketed more than $26 million through the firm’s work in Libya.

While testifying Tuesday, Bérubé was shown a contract stating Duvel was owed 50 per cent of the value of a claim Socodec, the SNC-Lavalin division run by Bebawi, was settling over a money-losing project in Libya. The cost sheet attached to the contract showed Duvel was paid $25 million Deutsche Mark.

But Bérubé pointed out several discrepancies between the contract in question and those she would usually prepare through her role.

“It’s not (SNC-Lavalin International) that made that document,” Bérubé said of the claim settlement.

The Crown has said Gadhafi received more than $7 million Deutsche Mark from the payment, while Ben Aissa and Bebawi received roughly $6 million each.

Ben Aissa, a key witness in the trial, has testified that everything he did in Libya had been approved by Bebawi.

Earlier Tuesday, Paul Beaudry, in charge of finances at Socodec, was asked to provide more details about a phone call he received from former SNC-Lavalin head Jacques Lamarre before testifying.

Beaudry had told the jury last week Lamarre called him during the trial to say he wasn’t aware of a $25-million yacht the firm purchased for Saadi Gadhafi. Ben Aissa had said Lamarre had approved the purchase.

Beaudry added Lamarre offered to send him testimony he gave authorities in Switzerland so he could read it before taking the stand.

“I refused because I didn’t want it to taint my testimony,” Beaudry said.

“During that conversation … can you tell the jury what Mr. Lamarre said about a company,” Crown prosecutor Richard Roy also asked.

“He told me the company, what we call the agent’s company, belonged to four people: Mr. Bebawi, Mr. Ben Aissa, Mr. Kaufman (a lawyer) and a fourth person,” Beaudry said.

The trial continues Wednesday.