A former vice-president of SNC-Lavalin facing charges of fraud and bribery in connection with the company’s dealings in Libya is trying to get his case thrown out due to what his lawyers claim are unreasonable delays.
Stephane Roy’s lawyers argued in Quebec court Wednesday that Crown prosecutors haven’t done enough to limit delays as the case approaches the 60-month mark. Defence lawyer Nellie Benoit said the Crown didn’t have its evidence ready early in the proceedings and then added a name to the witness list last December, which caused further delays.
Crown prosecutor Frederic Hivon replied that the defence hadn’t objected to the pace of proceedings until it recently filed a motion for a stay of proceedings. He said a prosecutor’s list of evidence “isn’t an exact science” and added the Crown is permitted to adjust its witness list.
Roy, who was a vice-president and controller at the embattled engineering giant, was fired in February 2012. He was acquitted in July 2018 of fraud-related charges in connection with the construction of the McGill University Health Centre.
The charges he still faces stem from SNC-Lavalin’s dealings with the regime of the late Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. Roy was charged in 2014 with fraud over $5,000, bribing a foreign public official and violating United Nations sanctions against Libya. The Crown has since withdrawn the charge related to the UN sanctions.
An RCMP affidavit filed in relation to its investigation alleged that Roy was involved in a plot to smuggle Gadhafi’s son, Saadi, and his family into Mexico as the Libyan regime was failing in 2011.
His case stems from the same Project Assistance investigation that led to charges against SNC-Lavalin. Those charges are fuelling 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.
Benoit invoked the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 Jordan decision in support of a stay of proceedings against her client. The ruling set a limit of 30 months between the laying of charges and the anticipated end of a criminal trial in provincial court cases where there is a preliminary hearing.
Hivon said many of the delays in Roy’s case were due to circumstances at the Montreal courthouse before the Jordan decision, when lags in the system were common. “The prosecution always acted in a transparent way,” he told Judge Patricia Compagnone. “We always followed the game plan and we adjusted with time.”
Compagnone has reserved her decision on the defence’s Jordan motion. Roy’s trial is scheduled to begin at the end of May.