EDC says probe clears staff after corruption claim related to SNC-Lavalin

OTTAWA — Export Development Canada says an independent review has cleared its personnel of any wrongdoing after a claim that its staff turned a blind eye to bribery and corruption in a 2011 transaction involving SNC-Lavalin.

The Crown corporation launched a three-month probe after CBC News reported allegations by an unnamed SNC-Lavalin insider stating it was well known within the engineering firm that “technical fees” in its proposals included cash earmarked for local consultants or agents.

The source alleged these technical fees can amount to millions of dollars and should have been detected by EDC personnel as they evaluated SNC-Lavalin’s application for support on a project in Africa.

EDC, which acts as a credit agency for Canadian firms looking to do business abroad, provided SNC-Lavalin with between $250 million and $500 million worth of “political risk insurance” for its deal to work on the Matala Dam in Angola.

A spokeswoman for the Crown corporation says it’s only providing statements on the review’s findings and cannot release the report itself because it contains confidential commercial information.

The probe conducted by the law firm Fasken involved interviews with EDC staff as well as a review of 1.7 million records related to SNC-Lavalin and the project.

“Fasken did not find any evidence that EDC personnel had knowledge of, or were wilfully blind to, bribery and corruption in relation to the project as had been alleged,” the Crown corporation said in a statement.

The law firm, EDC says, is conducting an additional review of its transaction screening process.

A spokeswoman for SNC-Lavalin declined to comment on the CBC report when it came out last spring, except to say the allegation in the story dated back to prior to 2012. The company has argued that despite past bad behaviour by some executives, it has cleaned house.

Earlier this year, the beleaguered Montreal-based firm was at the heart of a political controversy that engulfed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government for months.

Trudeau lost two senior cabinet ministers, a top aide and the country’s top public servant as a result of allegations that his former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, was improperly pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office last fall to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

The prime minister has denied his officials acted inappropriately.

Since the winter, a number of public opinion polls have suggested support for the Liberals slid following the SNC-Lavalin affair.

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