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Top shareholder says has confidence in SNC-Lavalin

Tags: SNC-Lavalin
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SNC-Lavalin Inc.'s (SNC-T) biggest shareholder said on Monday it has "great confidence" in the engineering company, a day after news of the arrest of a former senior executive on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.

SNC had done what it could to investigate allegations of wrong-doing, and its reputation is unlikely to be greatly harmed longer term, said Len Racioppo, president and director of Jarislowsky Fraser, an investment group that owns approximately 14.4 percent of SNC.

"Moving forward, is there reputational risk here? Perhaps, but I don't think that's going to hurt the company significantly longer term," Racioppo said in an interview.

"We have great confidence in the company."

SNC said last month that it had uncovered $56 million in improper payments to unknown agents on projects that did not exist. Police are investigating this, as well as probing SNC over allegations about bribery in Bangladesh.

But the latest blow came from Switzerland, where the State Prosecutor's Office confirmed on Monday that Riadh Ben Aissa, a former company executive had been arrested in Switzerland.

Ben Aissa, who left SNC's employ in February, was the group's global head for construction operations and SNC has linked him to its improper payments saga.

Montreal-based SNC is one of the world's biggest engineering groups, with operations in about 100 countries and revenue last year of $7 billion.

Amid the allegations, SNC's stock price is down about 28 percent in the past three months.

The federal government said it will cooperate fully with investigations into alleged wrongdoing at SNC and provide consular assistance to Ben Aissa.

"There are very serious allegations being made against this company, there are very serious investigations," said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in Parliament.

"The government will do everything it can to support investigations and to be as helpful as we possibly can. Anyone who breaks the law should bear the full force of the law ... whether it be in Canada or abroad," he said.

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