You may ask: "What does Aissa have to do with Newfoundland and Labrador?" The truth is a lot more than we know or have been told. Have you ever heard the man's name brought up in the context of this province? Likely not - until now. It starts with BAE Newplan Group Ltd - or rather it's forefathers. BAE Newplan Group Ltd is the result of Newplan Consultants Ltd merging with Newplan Holdings Ltd, and then merging with BAE Group Ltd. The merged company, BAE-SNC Limited, was then a SNC Lavalin subsidiary in this province. It had two directors of note:
1) Elwood J. Ried - was the President of BAE Newplan until he died suddenly in June, 2012. He and fellow BAE executive Albert Williams formed a numbered company in 2009 to construct the condo known as "The Narrows" in St. John's; and
2) RIADH BEN AISSA - yes that's what I said - the man of international intrigue and money laundering offshore accounts.
Here is the document from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Corporate Registry (CADO):
"Absolutely nothing my brother has done was unknown to the board of SNC-Lavalin. Unfortunately, when it comes to keeping money and business deals going, discrimination, lies, and injustice have sometimes no international limits."
Of course this immediately places many of the deals done in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last twenty years under the microscope. The first question is why would this man in charge of international construction with headquarters in Tunisia, who did mega deals all over the world, be one of two directors in this tiny Newfoundland company? That's a big question. Certainly SNC Lavalin did a lot of business in the province from the mid 1990's on. They have secured a number of contracts with Newfoundland and Labrador Power ( a Crown corporation) and also with its successor Nalcor. Billions of dollars in business. It is alleged that $22 million dollars in bribes were channelled through a Carribean country for SNC to secure the Montreal hospital contract - worth about $1.5 billion and handled by Aissa. Using that as a yard stick, what could be the bribes involved in a $6.5 billion or so contract? SNC secured that contract just after former Premier Williams left office.
Aissa's Newfoundland involvement has some more direct, and problematic questions that need to be addressed. For starters there is the founding of Innu-SNC Lavalin Corp - a joint corporation formed by the Innu Nation (a non-governmental but still government-like organization) and SNC Lavalin. The Board of Directors consists of: Albert Williams (BAE Newplan/SNC VP of Strategy and Development); Steve Lindley (VP of Aboriginal Affairs at SNC); Prote Poker (Innu Chief); and Anastasia Qupee (Innu Chief). The Corporation was formed February, 2008. According to the corporate registry Aissa was still a director of BAE Newplan at that time. In September 2008, the New Dawn Agreement was signed between the Innu Nation, Nalcor, and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to pave the way for the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project. Both Prote Poker and Anastasia Qupee signed the agreement along with then Deputy Grand Chief of the Innu Nation Peter Penashue.
Peter Penashue, elected as an MP in 2011 under the Conservative banner has subsequently had to resign for improper/illegal campaign donations - almost all his donations were corporate which he subsequently tried to cover up, but the cover up was rejected by Elections Canada. One very questionable issue for him was the illegal interest-free loan granted by the Innu Development Limited Partnership (the unincorporated head organization that administers all the "partnership" organizations the Innu Nation enters into - like Innu/SNC Inc. for example). Elections Canada reports there is no paper trail for this $25,000 other than a single letter, signed by Penashue's brother-in-law, that says a loan was given to Penashue by the Innu Development Limited Partnership. Of course this can not be true as the Partnership is not incorporated and so cannot have a bank account from which to lend money. He is now running in the by-election that he created by resigning over the fiasco.
However, the bigger question remains: Were Peter Penashue, Prote Poker, and/or Anastasia Qupee in a conflict of interest while negotiating the New Dawn Agreement on behalf of their people? Did their board membership on the Innu/SNC corporation create a very obvious pecuniary conflict of interest? My opinion is if they were paid to be on that board then without question. My understanding is they are paid to be on that Board. Were they also in the same conflict of interest when they sold the agreement to their people so they would endorse it by referendum and thereby give it legitimacy? Again, I would say yes. What role did Aissa play in this as director of SNC's outpost in the province? It's difficult to know that without a thorough RCMP investigation. One thing is certain - BAE-SNC Limited was still in existence at that time and so was Aissa.
Then there is the issue of our former Premier Danny Williams. As stated in a previous blog, Williams had two offshore service companies: Spectrol Energy Services (with a Texas Subsidiary); and Atlanic XL. Both companies had William's brother Edward, recently appointed to the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Board (CNLOPB) after leaving the Premier's office as an advisor, on their Board of Directors. This remained the case even after they were put in a "blind trust". Both companies gained lucrative contracts in the offshore oil developments around the province while Williams was Premier. Williams negotiated many of these agreements, including the necessity of using Newfoundland and Labrador companies - not unlike Penashue and his family's dealings and the Lower Churchill Impact and Benefits Agreement. The direct result was his companies grew and prospered - as did Penashue's family business interests.
On December 31, 2008 BAE-SNC Limited was voluntarily dissolved as a corporation. A new corporation was formed to take its place - BAE Newplan Group Limited. Why the one containing Aissa as director was dissolved and another created to take its place is puzzling. The new corporation has a directorship of four (all senior SNC people) as opposed to two at the old company. In any case it dissolved, as did the formal traces of Aissa in Newfoundland and Labrador. Four months later SNC Lavalin purchased Danny Williams offshore service companies for an undisclosed amount. The deal, secret as it remains, could have been constructed to give Williams an artificially high value for his companies - a common practise in corporate corruption prosecutions world-wide. We simply do not know. What we do know is the man at the centre of SNC's corruption practices had effective control of SNC's one subsidiary in the province at the time. We know his reputation. Williams was prepared to place himself in a conflict of interest by negotiating offshore agreements while owning companies that would benefit from the Newfoundland and Labrador policies of those agreements. Newfoundland and Labrador's conflict of interest legislation states:
3. A public office holder shall not make or participate in making a decision in his or her capacity as a public office holder where the public office holder knows or ought reasonably to know that in the making of the decision there is the opportunity to benefit himself or herself or a member of his or her family improperly, directly or indirectly.
Four months later, then Libyan leader, and personal/professional friend of Aissa and SNC, Moammar Gadhaffi, announced he wished to stay overnight in St. John's of all places. Apparently it was simply a refueling stop enroute back to Libya after speaking at the United Nations. Of course any person with a sense of direction realizes Libya is southeast of New York, and to travel several hours north makes no sense on the face of it. Williams was also very, very silent on the issue. While the Canadian government threatened Gadhaffi with lectures on terrorism the provincial government, and Williams, simply refused to comment. It is apparent that Gadhaffi was a man of deliberate action and it would be hard to attribute such a visit to shear coincidence based on a really poor sense of direction. What is more likely is Gadhaffi wanted to meet with Williams, or some person/people associated with Williams based on his friendship with Aissa. It was apparent that it made some people very nervous. Gadhaffi was so incensed by the treatment he was to receive should he stay in Canada that he threatened to nationalize Petro Canada's assets in Libya. He eventually changed his mind, but he was clearly insulted by the treatment of his potential hosts.
What other influences could Aissa have exerted in this province while a director of BAE? Well there is the whole political donation thing. Over the last 17 years BAE has donated a total of $239,170.00 dollars to political parties here. The receiving parties have been the PCs and the Liberals while the NDP have not received a cent. The Liberals received $111,965.00 - primarily from 1996-2000. The PCs received $127,205.00 - $113,800.00 after 2000 when Williams became leader of the PCs. Those dollar figures put BAE in the top three of political donors in Newfoundland and Labrador. They donated every year from 1996-2011. They donated in by-elections. They donated in elections, but only to one party - the one that won. Some interesting donations of note: Ed Byrne ($2000 in 2003-he became Minister of Natural Resources under Williams); Jerome Kennedy ($1000 in the 2006 Quidi Vidi by-election and again in elections-has been Minister of Finance and Natural Resources); Terry French ( ranging from $500 to $2000 in various elections and one by-election - served a number of Ministries including Environment); Paul Davis ( on numerous elections - responsible for Government purchasing); and several others. Bottom line, all of these people that received political donations had involvement with the Lower Churchill project and accepted donations from a company directly involved with it.
Should the RCMP be investigating the Riadh Ben Aissa relationships with: the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador; Nalcor; Danny Williams sale of his offshore companies; the Innu involvement with SNC and the New Dawn Agreement; etc? My opinion is yes. The conflicts of interest are obvious. Aissa's reputation as the guy that greases the wheels is established. His own brother does not deny that. A month or so ago contacts from Labrador to St. John's were floating news that SNC's office in St. John's was emptied out early in the day and staff told not to come back for that day. VOCM talk show host Paddy Daly twittered that he had heard rumours the RCMP raided SNC's St. John's office.
Could be that the RCMP have already become aware of something we were not - Aissa's reputation and his ties to Newfoundland and Labrador.