For­mer SNC ex­ec­u­tive faces elec­tions charges

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - LES PERREAUX

Canada’s elec­tions watch­dog has laid charges against a for­mer ex­ec­u­tive of engi­neer­ing gi­ant SN­CLavalin Group Inc. ac­cus­ing him of or­ches­trat­ing the il­le­gal fed­eral po­lit­i­cal donations the com­pany made.

For­mer com­pany vice-pres­i­dent Nor­mand Morin faces five counts un­der the Canada Elec­tions Act of cir­cum­vent­ing Ottawa’s po­lit­i­cal fi­nanc­ing rules by or­ches­trat­ing il­le­gal cor­po­rate donations through com­pany em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies and con­ceal­ing the real source of the money.

Mon­treal-based SNC-Lavalin has been en­gulfed in cor­rup­tion and bribery scan­dals reach­ing back about 14 years amid al­le­ga­tions com­pany ex­ec­u­tives paid cash to gain ad­van­tage with pub­lic of­fi­cials to win bil­lions of dol­lars in engi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion con­tracts in Canada and around the world.

Com­mis­sioner of Canada Elec­tions Yves Côté an­nounced the charges on Thurs­day, say­ing his agency has con­cluded its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into one part of the scan­dal. Mr. Morin, 76, re­tired from the com­pany in 2004 and could not be reached on Thurs­day. He is ex­pected in Que­bec Court to face the charges June 27.

A cor­po­rate biog­ra­phy of Mr. Morin says he worked for 35 years and over­saw some of the big­gest SNC projects around the world.

In 2016, the Lib­eral and Con­ser­va­tive par­ties were forced to reimburse the gov­ern­ment $117,803 for il­le­gal donations they re­ceived from SNC’s po­lit­i­cal slush fund. SNC-Lavalin, in turn, signed a com­pli­ance agree­ment with the elec­tions watch­dog com­mit­ting to tak­ing in­ter­nal steps to pre­vent il­le­gal donations.

Mr. Côté’s state­ment on Thurs­day said the al­le­ga­tions against Mr. Morin span from March, 2004, to May, 2011, and the charges “con­clude the Com­mis­sioner’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.” If con­victed, he faces a max­i­mum of one year in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion found se­nior com­pany ex­ec­u­tives il­le­gally do­nated $83,534 to the Lib­eral Party of Canada; $13,552 to var­i­ous Lib­eral rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tions; $12,529 to con­tes­tants in­volved in the 2006 Lib­eral lead­er­ship race; $3,137 to the Con­ser­va­tive Party; and $5,050 to Con­ser­va­tive rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tions.

The com­pany also made more than $1-mil­lion in il­le­gal donations to Que­bec po­lit­i­cal par­ties, mostly Que­bec Lib­er­als, over two decades. As in the fed­eral case, the com­pany had man­agers and fam­ily mem­bers make per­sonal donations to par­ties that were then re­im­bursed by the com­pany through salary bonuses. Cor­po­rate donations were il­le­gal at the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral level.

Court doc­u­ments pub­lished in 2014 al­leged Mr. Morin per­son­ally de­liv­ered il­le­gal cor­po­rate donations to Lib­eral Premier Jean Charest’s po­lit­i­cal fundraiser, Marc Bibeau, in 2004.

The Que­bec donations were ex­posed by the Char­bon­neau in­quiry into cor­rup­tion in po­lit­i­cal donations and the con­struc­tion in­dus­try that re­ported in 2015. The in­quiry’s man­date did not al­low it to delve into fed­eral cases.

In De­cem­ber, the com­pany reached con­fi­den­tial agree­ments with the prov­ince and seven mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, in­clud­ing Mon­treal, to re­pay undis­closed sums to com­pen­sate for il­le­gal po­lit­i­cal donations.

“We are very pleased to have reached a set­tle­ment,” Neil Bruce, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of SNC, said in a state­ment when the agree­ments were con­cluded. “For the last few years now, SNC-Lavalin has pub­licly said on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions that it is will­ing to work to reach an agree­ment, and we are proud to have achieved this im­por­tant step.”

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