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February 15, 2012

SNC Lavalin parts ways with two execs after published report of internal turmoil

SNC Lavalin has parted ways with two of its executives after acknowledging that the conduct of its employees has recently been questioned in public.

The company says executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa and vice-president finance Stephane Roy are no longer with the firm.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction company announced the departures Thursday night in a press release.

The release said "questions regarding the conduct of SNC Lavalin employees have recently been the focus of public attention." It added that "SNC Lavalin reiterates that all employees must comply with our Code of Ethics and Business Conduct."

The release did not explain further.

However, the announcement followed a published report earlier Thursday that said there was internal turmoil at the firm over the company's involvement with a Canadian woman facing charges in Mexico for allegedly trying to smuggle Moammar Gadhafi's son into the country.

The report, from CBC News, said Roy, one of the executives whose departure was announced, had originally hired Cynthia Vanier of Mount Forest, Ont., last July to travel to Libya on a fact-finding mission for the company. SNC Lavalin has construction projects in the country.

The network reports he later went to Mexico in November for a planned meeting with Vanier, but she was arrested a day before he arrived. It said at the time, Vanier was arranging meetings between Mexican officials and Roy on possible water treatment projects.

The network reported it learned another company executive had questioned the planned meeting and told Vanier early in November that the company wasn't interested and cancelled it.

CBC says Roy still travelled to Mexico and met instead with one of her associates. The associate was taken into custody during their meeting after being accused of being part of the Gadhafi plot as well. SNC has noted there was no charge against Roy.

Vanier's parents have said their daughter is innocent of all charges and that the federal government hasn't done enough to help her.

CBC reported an SNC Lavalin spokeswoman said in January that the company had not been involved with Vanier since the fact-finding mission, but the network also said anonymous insiders feared the company's construction division, headed by Aissa, had lost its moral compass in Libya.

SNC Lavalin's involvement in Libya included the winning last year of a multi-million dollar contract to build a prison for the oppressive Gadhafi regime.

SNC Lavalin said it has now appointed Charles Chebl as executive vice-president of its infrastructure and construction business unit.

The company is one of the leading engineering and construction groups in the world, with projects in some 100 countries.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2012

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