Sami Bebawi trial hears from undercover agent who dug into $10M bribe offer

MONTREAL — An undercover agent was used to flesh out information about a $10-million bribe offered to a key witness in the fraud and corruption case against a former SNC-Lavalin executive, his trial heard Wednesday.

Sami Bebawi faces several charges stemming from the engineering giant’s dealings in Libya, and the alleged payoff attempt was made to his former subordinate at the Montreal-based engineering giant, Riadh Ben Aissa.

The undercover agent, whose identity is subject to a publication ban, testified he was assigned to make contact beginning in October 2013 with Constantine Kyres, a Montreal lawyer representing Bebawi.

The agent, posing as a consultant, entered discussions with Kyres over a previously made proposal to pay Ben Aissa in exchange for him changing his story about his financial dealings with Bebawi.

“It’s not a question of recanting; our position is unfortunately different from Mr. Ben Aissa’s position when it comes to the facts surrounding certain transfers that took place, and we’re simply asking Mr. Ben Aissa to acknowledge that our version of the facts is the correct version of the facts,” a man identified by the agent as Kyres is heard saying in wiretap audio played in court.

The agent recounted the first face-to-face meeting took place at a boardroom of the Dentons Canada law firm, on the 39th floor of Place Ville Marie in downtown Montreal.

Kyres explained to the agent there was more than a monetary advantage to Ben Aissa siding with Bebawi’s version of events. He said that if Bebawi were prosecuted, it could be damaging to Ben Aissa.

“Essentially, additional facts that my client is aware of, that would probably be best left unsaid, and if our client is pursued here in Canada, it won’t be left unsaid,” Kyres told the agent.

Kyres warned during the face-to-face meeting that if push came to shove, that information could be released.

“It’s not just an acknowledgment that funds are owed to him, it’s quite a bit more than that,” the lawyer said. “Confirming our client’s position will keep a lot of other facts under wraps.”

Kyres repeatedly sought confirmation that Ben Aissa had indeed hired the consultant, but the agent deflected his queries.

“I’ve given you 100 per cent faith up until now and I haven’t had any confirmation from your client or your lawyers that you actually represent him,” Kyres told the agent. “As far as I know, you could be working for the government here, you could be working for a journalist.”

“We’re passed that now, trust me,” the agent reassured him with a laugh.

Jurors heard that the $10 million amount initially offered was reduced to $8 million and then $4 million. The offer was contingent on two separate documents — a sworn statement from Ben Aissa agreeing with Bebawi’s explanations to Swiss authorities and another agreeing that Ben Aissa wouldn’t return seeking more money.

Ben Aissa has testified earlier in the trial that he refused the offer received through his Swiss attorneys.

“I was offered $10 million in exchange for corroborating the version of Sami Bebawi,” Ben Aissa said.

“I refused it,” Ben Aissa added. “And I informed the Canadian authorities.”

Bebawi, 73, faces eight charges, including fraud, corruption, laundering proceeds of crime, possession of stolen goods and bribery of foreign officials. The Crown alleges Bebawi pocketed $26 million.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which involve contracts tied to the Moammar Gadhafi dictatorship. The trial has centred on dealings with Gadhafi’s son, Saadi, whose ties made doing business in that country easier. Among the alleged kickbacks to the younger Gadhafi was a $25 million custom-made luxury yacht.

The Crown has called the case one “of international fraud and corruption,” with Bebawi driving the business model to obtain lucrative contracts. The prosecution alleges Bebawi received millions of dollars stemming from those deals, which began in the late 1990s.

The prosecution is trying to prove SNC-Lavalin transferred about $113 million to shell companies used to pay people who helped the company collect money and secure contracts. It is alleged that what was left in those accounts was split between Ben Aissa and Bebawi.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2019.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ecologist Tony Blake was among several dozen area residents who participated in Tuesday’s public hearing on the future Molly Banister Drive extension. Blake argued for preserving trail connectedness and the wildlife corridor. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Molly Banister road extension stays

A nearly nine-hour public hearing ends with a 5-3 vote for keeping the road alignment

A server wears a mask at a restaurant, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Health officials receive thousands of COVID-related complaints

About 800 to 1,000 people call health officials weekly

Shaun Janse van Rensburg, a Red Deer resident, said he is tired of changing clocks twice a year. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
After COVID, Kenney may consider referendum on daylight savings

Albertans may be divided on several issues today, but there’s a consensus… Continue reading

The COVID-19 death toll in Alberta reached 309, according to numbers posted on the province’s website Tuesday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Another 422 COVID cases reported in Alberta and two more deaths

The Alberta government reported 422 COVID-19 cases Tuesday and two more virus… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
COVID-19 death toll verges on 10,000 as second wave continues to surge

Nearly 10,000 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, a mark of the… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts celebrates after a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning in Game 6 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Best Betts: Dodgers win first World Series title since 1988

Best Betts: Dodgers win first World Series title since 1988

Wade Sira is shown in a handout photo. Sira, the leader of Saskatchewan's pro-independence Buffalo Party, says he's extremely happy with last night's provincial election results, even though no candidates clinched a seat.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Wade Sira MANDATORY CREDIT
Buffalo Party’s strong showing in Saskatchewan vote a warning to Moe: experts

Buffalo Party’s strong showing in Saskatchewan vote a warning to Moe: experts

FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2019, file photo, Christian Coleman, of the United States, celebrates after crossing the line to win the gold medal in men's 100 meter final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Nick Didlick)
World champion Coleman banned 2 yrs; to miss Tokyo Olympics

World champion Coleman banned 2 yrs; to miss Tokyo Olympics

Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther returns to the sideline after missing his fourth field goal attempt during second half CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos, in Regina, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.  It's been a very difficult year for a number of kickers this year in the NFL, but CFL veteran Lauther continues to wait for his opportunity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Former Riders kicker Brett Lauther patiently awaiting opportunity to kick in the NFL

Former Riders kicker Brett Lauther patiently awaiting opportunity to kick in the NFL

Nashville SC midfielder Randall Leal, left, is congratulated by Alex Muyl after scoring a goal during the first half of the team's MLS soccer match against the Montreal Impact, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Willis gets MLS-leading 9th shutout, Nashville tops Montreal

Willis gets MLS-leading 9th shutout, Nashville tops Montreal

Kansas City mayor, star quarterback want Raptors to make Missouri temporary home

Kansas City mayor, star quarterback want Raptors to make Missouri temporary home

Djokovic, Thiem advance after slow starts in Vienna openers

Djokovic, Thiem advance after slow starts in Vienna openers

Most Read