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There goes CANDU

SNC Lavalin scandal compromises CANDU support, nuclear security.

Dateline: Tuesday, May 22, 2012

by Gordon Edwards

SNC-Lavalin, the company that bought the CANDU division of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) for a mere $15 million last fall, is now rocked with scandal — and accused by its own nuclear engineers of "destroying" the CANDU industry by its unsupportive policies.

Already hundreds of the best-qualified professionals in the CANDU field have fled the company, seriously compromising its capability to design and build new reactors, as well as undermining the competence needed to service and refurbish old reactors.

Yesterday (May 9) we learned that SNC-Lavalin is being sued (in a class action suit by investors) for $1.5 billion in losses, due to plummeting stock prices triggered by improper activities on the part of the company's directors.

 

Proposing measures that would in practice simply reduce charitable revenues is inimical to the Canada that most of us believe in.

SNC headquarters in Montreal were raided by the RCMP on April 13 in connection with $56 million in untraceable and unaccounted-for payments, presumed to be bribes. The payments were authorized, against company rules, by CEO Pierre Duhaime, who was then allowed to resign in March. He was not fired, nor prosecuted, but given a "golden handshake" of more than $5 million.

An internal SNC investigation revealed that at least eight senior executives probably had knowledge of the payments, but their names have not been given out nor have they agreed to share what they know. Shares are down by 26 percent since the beginning of this year, and by 52 percent since June of last year.

An ex-VP of SNC, Riadh Ben Aïssa (fired in February) has been in a Swiss jail since mid-April charged with fraud, money-laundering, and corruption of officials in connection with SNC contract procurements in North Africa: Tunisia, Algeria and Libya.

Ben Aïssa had very close ties with the Gadhafi family and especially two of the sons, who were instrumental in securing multi-biilion dollar contracts for SNC-Lavalin for various projects, including a controversial prison in Libya.

Cynthia Vanier, a Canadian consultant hired last year by Ben Aïssa's SNC controller Stéphane Roy (also fired in February), has been in a Mexican jail since November on charges of consorting with organized crime, falsifying documents, and human trafficking. When first hired, she went to Libya and wrote a well-received report praising the Gadhafi family and criticizing NATO operations in Libya.

She is the alleged mastermind behind an illegal scheme to extricate one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons, Saadi Gadhafi, from Libya to Mexico — a scheme that was put together not once, but twice, while she was in Mexico on SNC business.

This is the company that the Canadian Government trusts to sell nuclear reactors to other countries around the world, knowing full well that the only hope of preventing nuclear proliferation is based on ethical behaviour and the honourable observance of agreed-upon rules related to the proper accounting of strategic nuclear materials such as plutonium — of which unaccounted-for losses are entirely unacceptable, not just for Canada, but for our collective global security.

References
  Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
  SNC Lavalin and the demise of CANDU competence


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