SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has entered into A deal with prosecutors to settle criminal charges against the Canadian engineering giant in connection with a bridge contract in Montreal two decades ago.
The company said in a statement late Friday that it had reached a remedial agreement with Quebec’s criminal prosecution office, known as Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP), to settle charges against two corporate entities last fall. Such deals, sometimes called deferred prosecution agreements, allow companies to avoid prosecution in exchange for a fine and third-party monitoring of their activities.
As part of a three-year agreement, the engineering firm said it would pay a $29.6 million fine. The attorney general’s office also confirmed the deal in a separate statement. The parties will seek approval of their agreement from a Quebec Superior Court judge at a hearing scheduled for May 10. No other details were provided.
Last September, Quebec prosecutors indicted two of the company’s business entities – SNC-Lavalin Inc. and SNC-Lavalin International Inc. and former SNC Vice Presidents Normand Maureen and Kamal Francis in connection with a long-running RCMP investigation into bribery paid on a $128 million contract to renovate the Jacques-Cartier Bridge in Montreal in 2002.
Michel Fournier, former president of Federal Bridge Corp. , pleaded guilty in 2017 to fraud charges for accepting more than $2.3 million in bribes from SNC in the Jacques Cartier bridge and money laundering case. He was sentenced to 5 and a half years in prison, and has since been given full parole. The police investigation then focused on who arranged the bribery.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said SNC units and former executives face charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud against the government and conspiracy to commit fraud against the government. Both are over seventy years old; Their issues continue.
Quebec prosecutors previously said allowing SNC-Lavalin to negotiate a repair deal was the appropriate course of action to prevent collateral damage to the company’s stakeholders.
“I think it’s appropriate” as a solution in this case, said DPCP’s Patrice Peltier-Rivest. “This is an alternative to a more classic sentence – an alternative that allows for reduced impacts on employees, retirees, shareholders and customers of SNC-Lavalin.”
SNC said it was the first time a Canadian company had received an invitation to negotiate a treatment agreement. However, Mr. Peltier Rivest said this was the second time that Quebec prosecutors had made a call to negotiate such a deal.
He said the first case involved a separate company in the Longueuil area about two years ago. It was not clear whether a final agreement had been reached in this case.
Mr. Peltier Rivest said that SNC cooperated with authorities during police searches and voluntarily provided relevant information thereafter, which contributed to the decision to extend an offer to negotiate a deal. Former directors cannot benefit from a deferred litigation agreement because such arrangements do not apply to individuals.
Two years ago, SNC rejected a deferred prosecution agreement in a separate case in which it was accused of violating the Canadian Foreign Public Officials Corruption Act and fraud related to its business dealings in Libya while Muammar Gaddafi was in power. Kathleen Russell, director of federal prosecutors, told The Globe and Mail in 2020 that the deferred prosecution agreement in this case was inappropriate due to the “seriousness and breadth” of the crime.
SNC has conducted an intense lobbying campaign with the federal government to obtain a deferred prosecution agreement in the Libya case. Allegations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other members of his cabinet improperly pressured Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to order the government’s settlement have been in crisis for weeks.
SNC struck an agreement with prosecutors in December 2019 in which the company’s construction division pleaded guilty to one fraud charge and dropped the potentially more damaging corruption charge. The company agreed to pay a fine of $280 million, and was granted a three-year monitoring order, including the supervision of an independent monitor. The Quebec judge who approved the agreement called the agreement “reasonable” and said that without these plea deals, the Canadian justice system would “collapse under its own weight”.
The investigation of the Jacques-Cartier bridge, dubbed Project Agrafe (a key element), has long been a legal risk for SNC. The company acknowledged investigating the companies’ files, adding that other investigations into its past business dealings may be ongoing, including in Algeria.
Prosecutor Francis Bellot, of the Quebec Office of Criminal Prosecutions, said the Libya Bridge and Jacques Cartier case were “two completely different cases.” “DPCP is completely independent with respect to any cases that may have occurred in the past. It is therefore our only discretion,” he told reporters last fall, “to file charges and file deferred prosecution agreements.