Dessau to pay $1.9 million in settlement over bid-rigging on public contracts

Defunct engineering firm Dessau will pay $1.9 million in a settlement over bid-rigging on public contracts in Quebec, says Canada’s competition watchdog.

The settlement, filed Tuesday in the Superior Court of Quebec, marked the end of a Competition Bureau investigation into Dessau’s role in a bid-rigging conspiracy that set its sights on municipal infrastructure contracts in Quebec City, Laval, Gatineau and Montreal-area municipalities between 2003 and 2011.

“This resolution makes sure that Dessau takes responsibility for its actions. Cracking down on bid-rigging is a top priority and we will continue to pursue all those who participate in these criminal schemes,” interim commissioner of competition Matthew Boswell said in a statement.

Dessau, once among the largest engineering and construction firms in Canada, sold its engineering assets to Stantec Inc. in 2015 for an undisclosed price and is now in the process of dissolving, according to the Competition Bureau.

The firm was not the only Montreal-based engineering company to see its reputation tainted by corruption allegations.

In 2013, a commission looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry heard that both SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and WSP Global Inc. — then known as Genivar Inc. — were part of a bid-rigging scheme for awarding public contracts in Montreal in the 2000s.

SNC-Lavalin continues to contend with corruption and bribery charges linked to the regime of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi that have fuelled a scandal in Ottawa after the Prime Minister’s Office allegedly pressured the former justice minister to steer prosecutors toward an out-of-court settlement.

In January, former Dessau executive Dave Boulay was handed a 12-month sentence, including six months of house arrest and six months under curfew, after pleading guilty to rigging bids for City of Gatineau contracts between 2006 and 2008.

Boulay was one of four engineering executives slapped with criminal charges in June 2018 following a Competition Bureau investigation. They were charged in connection with bid-rigging on 21 Gatineau infrastructure contracts awarded between 2004 and 2008.

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