Enforcement authorities in Canada arrested and brought charges against two former executives of SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiary, SNC-Lavalin International, for their role in a bribery scheme that occurred two decades ago.

The Quebec-based engineering company, which also faces charges, said it has since overhauled its anti-corruption compliance program and transformed its ethics and compliance culture.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced Sept. 23 that Normand Morin, former vice president of SNC-Lavalin, and Kamal Francis, former vice president of SNC-Lavalin International, were arrested on fraud, forgery, and conspiracy charges for violations of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Dubbed “Project Agrafe,” the investigation concerned allegations of criminal wrongdoing related to bribes paid in exchange for obtaining a contract. Inspector Denis Beaudoin of the National Division RCMP Sensitive and International Investigations section noted, “This was a lengthy and highly complex investigation,” in which “evidence was identified and gathered over a number of years, which has ultimately resulted in the charges announced.”

“We remain committed to disrupting, deterring, and preventing both domestic and foreign corruption and aim to bring individuals and companies involved in these types of crimes to justice, regardless of when they were committed,” Beaudoin added.

SNC-Lavalin response

In a statement, SNC-Lavalin said it disclosed the investigation, which was facilitated by its own self-reporting, in its public filings and has “fully and voluntarily cooperated with the authorities.” It said the offenses at issue “occurred from 1997 to 2004, including fraud against the government and conspiracy to commit fraud against the government in connection with the Jacques Cartier Bridge Refurbishment project, a $128 million contract of which SNC-Lavalin was a 50 percent consortium partner.”

SNC-Lavalin added it welcomes the opportunity offered by Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions Patrick Michel to negotiate a remediation agreement to resolve the charges.

“This is the first time a Canadian company has received an invitation to negotiate such an agreement,” the company stated. “SNC-Lavalin has always been and remains willing to reach a reasonable and fair solution that promotes accountability.”

SNC-Lavalin Group CEO Ian Edwards stated, “I want to emphasize that these charges stem from events that took place nearly 20 years ago, involving former employees who left the company years ago and who no longer have any involvement with our organization. We have said repeatedly that the past behavior of a select group of former individual employees does not represent the values and ethical standards of SNC-Lavalin today.

“We have made great strides over the past decade. The SNC-Lavalin of today operates at the highest ethical standards and embraces a world-class integrity program, recognized by third parties, and culture established through a commitment to a common set of values. We see this as a further step to put the past behind us and allow the company to focus on the future.”

SNC-Lavalin remains under the watchful eye of an independent monitor—Canadian law firm Blake, Cassels & Graydon—as part of a 2019 federal settlement. The monitor is responsible for reporting on the company’s integrity program until December 2022. Blake, Cassels & Graydon issued its first report in April 2020.