SNC-Lavalin: Dictator Moammar Gadhafi approved settlement in Libya, witness says - The Libyan Report

SNC-Lavalin: Dictator Moammar Gadhafi approved settlement in Libya, witness says

There is no way longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi wasn’t aware of his son’s involvement with SNC-Lavalin in the country, a key witness in a former executive’s fraud trial says.

“He must have spoken about it with his father to get the green light and do what he did,” Riadh Ben Aissa testified on Friday, “he couldn’t have done it without his father.”

Ben Aissa, who worked for the engineering firm until 2012, was testifying during former executive vice-president Sami Bebawi’s trial.

He was referring to how Gadhafi’s son, Saadi, was involved in the firm settling a multimillion-dollar claim it had filed over a money-losing contract in Libya.

Fifty per cent of the claim, the jury has heard, was transferred to a new company Ben Aissa registered in the British Virgin Islands. The money was then divided between those involved in getting the settlement done, including Gadhafi.

“So what you’re saying is there’s only Mr. Moammar Gadhafi that could have authorized (the settlement)?” defence lawyer Alexandre Bien-Aimé asked Ben Aissa in cross-examination Friday.

“In the way in which it was done?” Ben Aissa answered. “No one else.”

The project in question was led by the Great Man-Made River Authority, a state institution tasked by the older Gadhafi to build infrastructure that could bring water from the desert to coastal cities in the region.

For different reasons, it had turned out to be much more costly than the SNC-Lavalin division in charge of it had first anticipated. The firm was now losing money on it. It filed a claim against the authority to try to recover the additional costs, but the negotiations weren’t going anywhere.

That’s when Ben Aissa says he was pressured by Bebawi to take any measures necessary to settle the claim, the trial has heard. That led to him developing a relationship with Saadi Gadhafi.

Ben Aissa has told the court that the claim was finally settled in Aug. 2001. He said he received a call from Saadi Gadhafi one night telling him he would need to be in Sirte, Libya, the next morning.

There, he says, he met with the authority’s chairman in a guesthouse on a military compound. He told jurors Gadhafi called him that morning and throughout the day with a clear message: no one was to leave until an agreement had been reached on the claim.

The Crown alleges the firm’s relationship with Gadhafi led to it developing a scheme that involved paying millions in kickbacks and bribes, including to Gadhafi, to ensure it kept receiving lucrative contracts in Libya.

Bebawi, 73, faces charges including fraud and bribing a foreign public official. The Crowns says he pocketed upward of $26 million through his role.

During his cross-examination Friday, the defence continued trying to poke holes in Ben Aissa’s version of events. But Ben Aissa would not let Bebawi be distanced from the firm’s dealings in Libya.

“Everything I knew I shared with Sami Bebawi,” he said during one more heated exchange. “Everything I did I shared with Sami Bebawi, all information, everything I’ve said (in court) I shared with Sami Bebawi.”

The trial continues Monday.

jfeith@postmedia.com source