MONTREAL -- The former head of Canada's biggest engineering firm, who once mused that Quebec was taking sufficient measures to fight corruption in the construction industry, was arrested Wednesday by the squad at the centre of those efforts.
Pierre Duhaime, the former chief executive of SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC), was taken from his home by police in connection with alleged fraud involving one of Montreal's huge new superhospitals.
The arrest warrant alleges that Duhaime and Riasdh Ben Aissa, another former top executive, also committed conspiracy to commit fraud and uttered false documents in connection with a contract pertaining to the multibillion-dollar McGill University Health Centre.
The infractions are alleged to have taken place between April 30, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2011.
Duhaime was released from custody late Wednesday and is expected to appear in court at a later date after being questioned by provincial anti-corruption squad investigators.
Squad chief Robert Lafrenière said "international proceedings'' have been initiated against Ben Aissa, who is currently detained in Switzerland.
Ben Aissa, SNC's former head of construction, is accused of fraud, money laundering and corrupting a public official tied to his dealings in North Africa.
Duhaime received a $5-million payout after he stepped down as SNC-Lavalin's CEO last March.
He was "relieved'' of his duties after an independent review conducted by the company discovered he signed off on $56 million worth of payments to undisclosed agents, breaching the company's code of ethics. His departure was classified as a retirement.
In 2011, Duhaime said in an interview he didn't see the need for a public inquiry into construction, although he said he found revelations in a report by Jacques Duchesneau, former head of the anti-collusion squad at the Transport Department, to be "troubling.''
Concerned about the use of anonymous sources in the report, Duhaime said at the time the province was already getting results in its battle with corruption.
The strike by the anti-corruption squad at the heart of corporate Canada came within days of SNC-Lavalin being recognized by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants for excellence in financial reporting.
An SNC-Lavalin spokeswoman said the company has been co-operating with police and will continue to help in the investigation.
However, the company said it wouldn't comment on the allegations against Duhaime.
-- The Canadian Press