Former SNC-Lavalin boss pleads guilty in fraud case

11 February 2019 | By GCR Staff
Photograph by Jeangagnon/CC BY-SA 3.0

Pierre Duhaime, the former chief executive of Canada’s biggest construction firm SNC-Lavalin, has pleaded guilty in what has been described as the country’s biggest fraud case, but the plea deal struck sees him avoid prison.

On Friday, 1 February Duhaime admitted in a Montreal court to helping a public servant commit breach of trust, just over six years after he was first arrested in November 2012 on 15 charges including bribing public officials.

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The case concerned SNC-Lavalin’s contract to build the C$1.3bn “superhospital”, the McGill University Hospital Centre (MUHC).

The arrangement between his defence and prosecutors saw him admit to not taking action on information about possible bribery, but, according to the agreed upon statement of facts, Duhaime did not know about or authorise bribes, reports Canadian broadcaster CBC. 

The deal sees him avoid a trial due to begin today. Fourteen of the 15 charges were dropped.

Provincial court Judge Dominique Joly accepted a joint recommendation from the defence and prosecutors that Duhaime be sentenced to 20 months of house arrest, 240 hours of community service, and make a C$200,000 donation to victims of crime.

In November a former senior MUHC executive, Yanaï Elbaz, 49, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes amounting to C$10m for helping ensure the contract to build the hospital went to a consortium led by SNC-Lavalin. Elbaz was sentenced to 39 months in prison, reports CBC.

According to the agreed upon statement of facts, Duhaime, now 64, was informed in 2009 that an SNC-Lavalin employee was in contact with Elbaz around the time SNC-Lavalin was trying to secure the contract.

“Instead of acting upon that knowledge, and stopping this from happening, which he could have done, he chose to look the other way,” said Robert Rouleau, spokesperson for the Crown prosecutor’s office, reports CBC.

In total, nine people were charged in the case, which one Quebec police investigator called “the biggest case of corruption fraud in Canadian history”, said CBC. Duhaime is the fourth person to plead guilty. One other person was acquitted, and three had charges dropped.

Separately, SNC-Lavalin faces a lengthy trial over corruption charges laid in 2015 in relation to its dealings in Libya between 2001 and 2011. Prosecutors allege the company offered millions of dollars in bribes for work.

Image courtesy of Jeangagnon/CC BY-SA 3.0

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