An SNC-Lavalin executive said he was at a meeting in Montreal with the engineering and construction company’s top global executives on the same day that RCMP officers raided headquarters more than seven years ago.
Hentie Dirker, the company’s chief integrity officer, spoke June 26 at the Trace International Bribery and Economic Crime Summit in Vancouver. Dirker was, on April 13, 2012, still the regional compliance officer for Siemens Canada when he was invited with the CEO of Siemens Canada to speak at the SNC-Lavalin meeting.
He said they were there to tell the SNC-Lavalin executives from the Siemens experience how the company could still succeed “even if things happened and there were issues and bad people doing bad things.”
“SNC, as a company, was trying to take all the necessary steps to make sure how do we get past this and what can we learn from companies that went through this already,” he said, referring to the Siemens global bribery scandal that exploded in 2005.
Dirker said the execution of a search warrant at SNC-Lavalin headquarters happened while he was on stage. “We had to stop the meeting at the time,” he said.
Police eventually arrested fired SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime in November of 2012 over allegations of bribery around SNC-Lavalin’s McGill University superhospital contract. Duhaime pleaded guilty to breach of trust earlier this year. The company was charged in 2015 for allegedly paying $48 million in bribes to Libyan officials and defrauding the Libyan government for $130 million between 2001 and 2011.
Dirker joined SNC-Lavalin in 2015 to spearhead its turnaround, which employed the Siemens corporate compliance program as its way forward.
In his presentation, Dirker referred to Neil Bruce, the SNC-Lavalin CEO who suddenly retired earlier this month. Dirker said Bruce likened the trials and tribulations of SNC-Lavalin to an egg with distinct pieces, but the media had “managed to scramble it.”
“They see a scrambled egg, a lot of times there is no timeline to all the issues, people get confused about what has happened, when it happened,” Dirker said.
Dirker said that SNC-Lavalin is counting down to April 2021, when it reaches the eighth anniversary of its debarment from World Bank-funded infrastructure projects. In 2021, SNC-Lavalin can ask for an early release from the suspension, if it can show a viable compliance program.
Dirker said SNC-Lavalin has reached a number of settlements to avoid criminal prosecution, including an administrative agreement with Public Works Canada.
“The odd one out, that we really hope we can still get to, is under the remediation process that Canada recently implemented,” he said. “We were not invited in September, October, when it was launched, we still do not know why.”
SNC-Lavalin’s lobbying of the Trudeau Liberal government, in a bid to avoid the trial, sparked accusations of interference by the Prime Minister’s Office after ex-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould refused to overturn the director of prosecutions’ decision last fall.
In March, the Federal Court of Canada denied SNC-Lavalin’s appeal of the federal director of prosecutions’ decision to proceed with criminal prosecution instead of remediation. At the end of May, a judge in Quebec ruled SNC-Lavalin would stand trial for the Libyan bribery and corruption case. If convicted, SNC-Lavalin would be barred from federally funded infrastructure projects.
Despite the company’s uncertain future, the Horgan NDP government in British Columbia has shortlisted SNC-Lavalin for the $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge replacement and the $2.83 billion Broadway SkyTrain subway.
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