Former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Sami Bebawi enters a courtroom in Montreal on Friday, February 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Sami Bebawi enters a courtroom in Montreal on Friday, February 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Former SNC-Lavalin executive has obstruction charge dropped

Excessive delays leads to charges being dropped

A former SNC-Lavalin executive and his lawyer had obstruction of justice charges against them stayed Friday on the grounds it took too long to bring the case to trial.

Sami Bebawi, a former SNC-Lavalin executive vice-president, and his Montreal-based tax lawyer, Constantine Kyres, had been accused of offering a $10-million bribe to have a key witness change his testimony in a fraud and corruption case against Bebawi.

The alleged recipient of the offer was Riadh Ben Aissa, another former SNC-Lavalin executive, who was detained in Switzerland at the time on charges of corrupting officials in Libya on behalf of the Canadian engineering firm.

After Bebawi found out he was being investigated, he allegedly asked Kyres to travel to Switzerland and offer to pay off Ben Aissa, Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer Court wrote in a summary of the obstruction case. In exchange, Bebawi wanted Ben Aissa to offer authorities a version of events that would exonerate him.

Bebawi and Kyres were charged with obstruction of justice in 2014. A stay of proceedings was issued in February 2018 after evidence was ruled inadmissible, but the charges were reinstated by direct indictment last May. The trial had not begun, and it would have been more than 60 months after charges were laid before it concluded.

READ MORE: Wilson-Raybould’s cabinet move due to departure from team: Trudeau

The defendants invoked the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 Jordan decision, which set limits on how long a criminal cases can take, and Cournoyer agreed. The judge said Crown prosecutors did not show that the delays in the case were reasonable.

Cournoyer wrote that even after the Jordan ruling, the case against Bebawi and Kyres “remained forgotten” for more than 11 months.

“The prosecutors … were unable to explain what happened in the year that followed the Jordan decision,” Cournoyer wrote. “The file seemed to have been abandoned like a ship without a captain that is drifting slowly, but inexorably, towards a reef.”

Bebawi is still facing charges including fraud and bribery of a public official in relation to SNC-Lavalin’s dealings with the regime of the late Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. The trial is upcoming. Ben Aissa has given statements to authorities implicating Bebawi in the Libyan bribery scheme, Cournoyer wrote.

When asked as he left the courthouse how he felt about having one case completed with one to go, Bebawi crossed his arms over his chest and said: “It’s crazy, it’s crazy, it’s crazy.”

The remaining case against Bebawi stems from the same Project Assistance investigation that led to charges against SNC-Lavalin in 2015. Those charges continue to fuel controversy in Ottawa following a report that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the company avoid criminal prosecution.

READ MORE: Jody Wilson-Raybould resigns from cabinet

SNC-Lavalin and two of its subsidiaries were charged with paying nearly $48 million to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to influence government decisions. The company is also accused of fraud and corruption for allegedly defrauding various Libyan organizations of roughly $130 million.

After Cournoyer’s ruling, Kyres’s lawyer, Frank Pappas, said justice was served. “We won this case about a year ago when a judge decided, a judicial ruling, that the RCMP operation was done illegally,” he told reporters. “Finally, the delays caused by the Crown’s decision and strategies is what sunk their ship.”

Crown prosecutor Benoit Robert said he will analyze the decision before deciding whether to appeal.

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

Most Read