A former executive of Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin has been placed under arrest by the Swiss authorities after being accused of fraud, corruption and money laundering in relation to business in North Africa.
Swiss federal prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Jeanette Balmer confirmed the arrest of the dual Tunisian-Canadian citizen earlier this month as part of an investigation that was launched in May 2011. She did not reveal which countries were involved.
The former SNC-Lavalin executive vice-president is facing a probe into his business dealings, notably in Tunisia and Libya, where he helped his firm win billions of dollars in projects from the Gadhafi regime, according to a joint investigation by CBC-Radio Canada and Swiss public broadcaster RTS.
RTS is the French-speaking unit of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo’s parent company.
Swiss officials say they asked the Canadian national police (RCMP) to conduct a search of SNC-Lavalin’s Montreal headquarters mid-April. Documents were seized according to reports, and a dozen executives were questioned.
When asked to comment by CBC-Radio Canada, the RCMP acknowledged a request for assistance from the Swiss, but did not provide specifics and would not talk about the arrest.
The former executive was forced to resign from the company in February after internal audits discovered C$56 million (SFr51.7 million) in improper payments to unidentified commercial agents, a situation that also later led to the resignation of the firm’s CEO.
The vice-president’s tasks included overseeing operations in Tunisia and Libya along with a former controller who is also being investigated in Canada.
They were allegedly to Saadi Gadhafi, one of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s sons, who reportedly provided them with a number of contracts, including one for a prison.