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SNC-Lavalin and executives register as lobbyists with the Quebec government

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

MONTREAL - Embattled engineering giant SNC-Lavalin and several of its top executives have registered as lobbyists in Quebec.

According to a June 26 filing with the province's lobbyist registry, CEO Robert Card and nine executives representing several SNC subsidiaries registered to "sensitize" the government and provincial agencies about the importance of engineering firms in Quebec and the negative impact of the new anti-corruption law.

The officials met, called or sent written communications to the Quebec premier's office and 13 agencies, including Hydro-Quebec, the Montreal transit authority and the Caisse de depot et placements du Quebec.

Canada's largest engineering firm said it wanted to impress on officials "the importance of allowing companies like SNC-Lavalin to participate in major engineering projects in Quebec, in order to maintain a Quebec-based expertise in engineering and construction that can compete around the world."

Among those named are Charles Chebl, the company's executive vice-president of infrastructure and construction, and Michael Novak, husband of former Quebec justice minister Kathleen Weil.

The registration covers a two-year period that started March 25.

In addition to Infrastructure Quebec and the departments of transportation and municipal affairs, SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) also contacted l'Autorite des marches financiers, to which it has applied for certification that would allow it to bid on public contracts in Quebec.

Company spokeswoman Leslie Quinton said it would only be appropriate for SNC to meet with the securities regulator in an official way to provide information when requested, rather than to "try to unduly influence anybody."

Quinton said the company, which is also registered federally, registered in the province to be "as transparent as possible" to avoid accusations of improper lobbying including when executives meet public officials in social settings.

"We're not trying to influence existing legislation we're just trying to make sure our point of view is able to be heard and they can know what our perspective is," she said.

SNC-Lavalin has come under close scrutiny around the world since it disclosed in March 2012 that an internal investigation uncovered $56 million in payments to undisclosed agents.

The document led to the departure of former CEO Pierre Duhaime and several other executives. A subsidiary and affiliates have also been barred from bidding on World Bank projects for a decade over alleged bribery in Bangladesh.

Duhaime and former vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa have been charged with fraud over allegations that $22.5 million was used to win the Montreal super-hospital contract. Ben Aissa has been jailed for more than a year in Switzerland on alleged corruption, fraud and money-laundering in North Africa.

Yves Cadotte, a former vice-president at SNC-Lavalin, admitted in a corruption inquiry that there was a cartel of engineering firms that divided work amongst themselves.

Cadotte testified the firms were routinely hit up for political donations and obliged, by reimbursing employees who made donations.

Rosaire Sauriol, a former vice-president at Dessau, a company his family founded, admitted to using false billing to funnel nearly $2 million to political parties.

Both men quit their posts after testifying. Sauriol, meanwhile, faces criminal charges — as do several others who've testified.

At the provincial level, engineering firms pumped cash into political parties through middlemen, despite laws banning corporate donations. One former engineering executive explained that he did it to get the ear of politicians who controlled infrastructure grants.

Another suggested the practice also went on at the federal level, although the inquiry is not examining federal politics.

The inquiry will submit its final report by spring 2015.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/130702/snc-lavalin-and-executives-register-lobbyists-the-quebec-gov