New SNC-Lavalin president Robert Card was welcomed to his new position with a series of biting questions regarding allegations of corrupting that have swirled around the company for much of this year.
Card, who took part in a conference call as he took the reins at his new company, declined comment on the questions, which related to $56 million in undocumented payments which are alleged to have been paid out as bribes to secure work in Africa.
Those allegations are currently being investigated by police.
La Presse newspaper in Montreal has now contended that $22 million of the $56 million in payments was paid out to secure work on the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), a massive $1.3 billion hospital project that SNC-Lavalin was awarded along with Innisfree back in 2010.
SNC-Lavalin has come under fire for the alleged corruption, with those allegations leading to the departure of former CEO Pierre Duhaime and the company’s former head of construction Riadh Ben Aissa, the latter of whom was arrested and is in custody in Switzerland.
While the La Presse report suggests the $22 million allegedly paid out to secure the MUHC contract was part of the $56 million in undocumented payments uncovered earlier, it could serve as an additional blow to the company.
While it was previously suggested the $56 million was paid out to agents overseas, should it turn out that SNC-Lavalin was embroiled in bribery in Canada, it could seriously hamper the company’s image as it pertains to North American business, as well.
While Card’s introductory conference call featured many pointed questions regarding the scandal, the incoming SNC-Lavalin president opted instead to look forward and vowed the company would avoid “downsize surprises” and look to retain “upside continuity” to help renew the confidence of investors and others.
Card was brought in to help the company rehabilitate its image and restore the company’s integrity following the scandal. In an effort to ease the minds of investors, he has purchased $1 million in SNC-Lavalin stock, which fell 22 per cent following the allegations of improper payments.
SNC-Lavalin board chair Gwyn Morgan also refused to answer questions regarding the ongoing investigations into the company, though Morgan promised action to ensure that the company’s scandal-ridden recent history is a thing of the past.
Investors are surely eager to see whether Card is up to that task.