Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

SNC-Lavalin discloses $13.5-million ruse

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MONTREAL -- SNC-Lavalin says a gas project in the United Arab Emirates was used as a cover to transfer $13.5 million to unknown agents, a portion of the $56 million in questionable payments identified by the company in an internal investigation last year.

The Montreal-based company said the amount was falsely attributed to the project but the money went elsewhere. Another $20 million was wrongly attributed to another project SNC-Lavalin refuses to identify.

"The payment in the UAE never actually happened," said spokeswoman Leslie Quinton.

The identity of the gas complex in Abu Dhabi surfaced after a French newspaper, L'Union de Reims, disclosed this week French authorities were investigating the payment.

A French prosecutor launched an investigation last summer after an external auditor found "anomalies" in the SNC-Lavalin Europe accounts.

Last November, police raided the SNC-Lavalin Europe headquarters, then in Reims, believing the $13.5 million was a commission paid to the project in Abu Dhabi.

But the money never went there, even though the accounting code for the Abu Dhabi project suggested it had, Quinton said. SNC-Lavalin later reimbursed the amount to correct the error.

SNC-Lavalin has said its internal investigation found $56 million was distributed to what it described as projects A and B. Project A totalled $33.5 million. Project B, which received $22.5 million, was later identified as Montreal's new super hospital.

"It had nothing to do with them; it was related to the ill-begotten gains of Project A," she said, referring to the mystery project.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2013 B5

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