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Former executive Sami Bebawi sentenced to 8.5 years in prison in SNC-Lavalin Libya corruption case

Update (September 9, 2020): On September 2, 2020, Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer ordered the forfeiture of assets of former SNC-Lavalin executive vice-president Sami Bebawi, according to a press release issued by the RCMP. The assets, which are worth over $4 million, include:

  • A real estate property located in Florida valued at over $1 million US
  • Approximately $670,000 in Canadian bank accounts
  • Three real estate properties with a combined value of over $540, 000
  • $970,000 in lieu of the seizure of an additional real estate property
  • An amount of $290,409 invested in a real estate property

Montreal (January 13, 2020) – Former SNC-Lavalin senior executive Sami Bebawi was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison in a Montreal courthouse on January 10. The SNC-Lavalin Libya corruption case brought the engineering giant and former executives before the court for conducting fraud and corruption in Libya in order to secure business deals. Bebawi pocketed about $30 million through his bogus dealings especially with the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi. In December 2019, a jury found Bebawi guilty on all five counts including fraud, corruption of foreign officials, and laundering proceeds of crime.

Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer sentenced the former SNC-Lavalin senior executive, Sami Bebawi to eight and a half years in prison for a fraud and corruption scheme in connection with his dealings in Libya in Montreal on January 10. The criminal cases against SNC-Lavalin and former employees regarding their dealings in Libya as of the late 1990s caused major media attention and even shook Justin Trudeau’s cabinet early 2019 and left Trudeau with a rebuke by the Ethics Commissioner in August of the same year.

SNC-Lavalin Libya corruption case

The engineering giant and some of its executives faced several fraud and corruption charges in connection with their dealings in Libya. As of the late 1990s, former SNC-Lavalin’s executive vice-president, Bebawi secured major infrastructure projects in Libya using a bribery scheme that compensated especially Saadi Gadhafi, a son of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi with money and gifts.

About $113 million were transferred to shell companies used to pay off the foreign officials in the bribery scheme. Additionally, Bebawi pocketed $30 million for himself in kickbacks. Crown prosecutor Anne-Marie Manoukian called it an ‘embarrassment for Canadian companies to act in that kind of behavior.’

Read more: SNC-Lavalin pleads guilty in Libya fraud case

The construction division of the engineering giant pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud in December 2019. They also settled to pay a $280 million fine that has to be paid over a five-year period. Furthermore, the company was placed on a three-year probation.

Many aggravating circumstances and very few mitigating circumstances

In Bebawi’s criminal trial, the court stayed very close to what the Crown requested with the eight and a half years sentence for the 73-year-old. Crown prosecutor Anne-Marie Manoukian had argued for a nine-year prison term. On the other side, the defense requested a six-year prison term considering Bebawi’s age and health.

Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer argued that the many aggravating circumstances led to the higher sentencing. The judge listed the high degree of planning and premeditation, the sophisticated nature of the fraud as well as Bebawi’s behavior after charges were laid in his decision. The investigation revealed that Bebawi tried to pay off a subordinate who was also involved in the Libya bribery scheme to change his testimony in order to avoid prosecution.

‘Although bribery of foreign public officials is sometimes seen as a necessary step in obtaining contracts in some countries,’ Cournoyer said, that does not justify Bebawi’s conduct. The Crown is also seeking to have the former executive ordered to pay a fine as part of his sentence, but those arguments will be heard at a later date, according to the Ottawa Sun.

Jury convicted Bebawi of fraud and corruption in December

In December 2019, a jury found Bebawi guilty on all five charges including fraud, corruption of foreign officials and laundering proceeds of crime after three days of deliberation. A wide-reaching investigation by the RCMP and Swiss authorities found Bebawi a key figure in the elaborate scheme. In total, 300 exhibits were entered into evidence for consideration regarding the Libya corruption case during a six-week trial.

The case returns to the court on January 28 to discuss what to do with the proceeds of crime. They entail three bank accounts, a condo in Florida and two amounts of roughly $15 million and $12 million. According to the Ottawa Sun, Bebawi filed an appeal of his verdict earlier last week and was granted his release on December 10 pending the request.

Read more: Former SNC-Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi found guilty by jury in international fraud and corruption case