Wednesday 15 February 2012

Former SNC-Lavalin exec may face Mexican extradition request

(For an examination of the judicial experience of foreigners accused of crimes in Mexico, see: In Mexico, guilt by association is often enough).
Mexican authorities reportedly now have five more suspects in two alleged plots to bring Saadi Kadhafi, 38, to Mexico – the first from Libya, the second from Niger. These suspects include Stephane Roy, a former executive at SNC-Lavalin in Montreal.

Mexican sources close to the case say that Gregory Gillispie, CEO of Veritas Worldwide Security in San Diego, California, is also a suspect. Veritas Worldwide Security was the firm that provided a charter for Canadian Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier to travel to North Africa in July – for what the Mexicans claim was a failed attempt to extract Saadi Kadhafi from Libya.

As well, Veritas Worldwide Security was allegedly lined up to provide the charter aircraft for a second attempt to bring Kadhafi to Mexico in late 2011. Mr. Gillespie, who is also Executive Vice President of Special Operations at Veritas Worldwide Solutions (which is now distancing itself from Veritas Worldwide Security), has vehemently denied any connection to such a plot.

And Stephane Roy has so far maintained complete silence. He may have to speak up soon, however, as the Mexican government clearly sees this as an open case – and they have their sights on Mr. Roy.

Sources within the Mexican government told the news program 24 Hours (24 Horas):

 "The investigation is not finished yet. We continue finding out about others involved, and other crimes (...). If necessary, we will extradite someone. The public prosecutor would use legal channels, and make an application to the appropriate government."

As it stands, the Mexican authorities have jailed four people: the Canadian Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier, 52, the alleged “ringleader” of the plot, responsible for finances and contact with Saadi Kadhafi and his family; José Luis Kennedy Prieto, a Mexican citizen accused of forging documents to provide the Kadhafis with false identities; Gabriela Dávila Huerta, a Mexican national who lives in the United States, suspected of providing logistic/transportation support; and Pierre Christian Flensborg, 32, a Danish national, supposedly in charge of logistics.

Vanier and Davila Huerta are now in prison in Chetumal, Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsula. Kennedy Prieto and Flensborg are in jail in Veracruz, on the Gulf coast. (For more on Cynthia Vanier's prison conditions, see: Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier incarcerated in one of the worst prison systems in Mexico).

Both Dávila Huerta and Flensborg were associates of Gillispie at Veritas Worldwide Security in San Diego. According to Gillispie, the two were in Mexico to collect from Vanier on an outstanding debt of $40,000 from the flight he had arranged for her to Tunisia in July. At no time, according to Gillispie, was Veritas Worldwide Security involved in a plan to move Kadhafi to Mexico.

Gary Peters, a body-guard and security consultant to Saadi Kadhafi who also worked with Cynthia Vanier, claims there had been a plan to move Saadi Kadhafi out of Libya, but it was dropped when it was determined that it couldn’t be done legally.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on February 13, 2012, Peters said countries approached included Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, and Mexico. He also said that he went to Mexico to look at two properties for the Kadhafis, but no bids were ever made.

“The plan was to get him out of Libya and his family to another destination legally, somebody that would host him, some country that would host him and do everything legally,” said Peters. “There was like paperwork, documentation, transportation, air transportation, property acquisition and ongoing security, so to speak. That was the plan.”

According to Mr. Peters, all legal efforts to extract Saadi Kadhafi from Libya by air to another country were abandoned on June 16th. In the end, it was Mr. Peters who drove Saadi Kadhafi to the border with Niger, where Mr. Kadhafi is now under house arrest.

Follow the money...

According to the preliminary statement given by Christian Flensborg to the Mexican authorities – and obtained by 24 Hours – Gillispie, a decorated former U.S. Marine, and Gabriela Davila are co-owners of the Delaware-registered company GG Global Holdings.

The suspicion remains on the part of officials in the Mexican government that when Gillispie provided a Hawker 800 executive jet, in which several of those involved traveled to Libya in July 2011, the trip was in fact a first unsuccessful attempt to get Kadhafi into Mexico.

Hawker 800 - a pricey way to travel

This date falls after Peters claims all legal efforts to move Kadhafi to Mexico were abandoned, but corresponds with the “fact-finding” mission that Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier and Gary Peters took to Libya at the behest of SNC-Lavalin. For that contract, which resulted in Ms. Vanier writing a report favourable to the Kadhafi regime and critical of NATO, Ms. Vanier was paid $100,000 by SNC-Lavalin.

It would seem odd that, as part of her responsibilities, she would also be the lead to subcontract a jet aircraft for $40,000 on a $100,000 contract. As well, the $40,000 appears to be the balance owed – presumably there would have been a significant down-payment.

But Ms. Vanier was – and according to her lawyer Paul Copeland, still is – owed another $395,000 from SNC-Lavalin. A month before her arrest on November 10, 2011, Ms. Vanier submitted a $395,000 invoice for “consulting, training and Risk Policy Deployment Implementation Employee Re-Integration Project.”

Both invoices were being handled by Stephane Roy, the former Vice-President Controller of SNC-Lavalin.

On August 4 Mr. Roy had expressed satisfaction with Ms. Roy’s work on the “fact-finding” mission contract. However, in an email to Ms. Vanier late in October, Mr. Roy said that SNC-Lavalin would not honour the second invoice, as that work had not yet been completed to satisfaction. It is unclear how Ms. Vanier could further assist with employee re-integration in Libya from her home in Bucerias, Mexico – near both Punta Mita and Puerto Vallarta. It is also unclear how that could possibly add up to almost $400,000.

Despite his lack of satisfaction with her efforts, Roy then travelled to Mexico to meet with Ms. Vanier in Mexico City on November 11. That meeting never happened: Ms. Vanier was arrested on November 10, and when Mr. Roy showed up for the meeting on the 11th he found that Ms. Davila Huerta was there. She was arrested; Mr. Roy was questioned and released.

What Cynthia Vanier had attempted to do, quite clearly, was to set up a meet between Davila Huerta and Stephane Roy. In other words, with a person whom she owed $40,000, and another from whom she felt she was owed $395,000. 

Roy claimed that the reason for the meeting was to discuss a water filtration project with Ms. Vanier. Ms. Vanier and a Mexican colleague had apparently reached out to some Mexican officials in this regard; however, Mr. Roy did not work in business development – he was a money man.  As well, Gabriela Davila Huerta, as an employee of Veritas Worldwide Security, would have had little to contribute to a discussion on water filtration.

Why was Mr. Roy not detained then? In Mexico, people suspected of involvement in a crime can be detained for 80 days without charge. It would have been easy to hold Mr. Roy for a few days, if only to question him further. It is possible in Mexico to dodge such a situation through what is called a “writ of amparo”, which offers some protection from arrest. This is a pre-emptive move.  It requires the authorization of a judge and, depending on the level of corruption and sophistication of the participants, can sometimes be bought.

It is unlikely, however, that Roy could have managed a writ on such short notice – or that he would even be aware that such a thing existed. Instead, it looks like at the time Mexican officials had not then connected the dots back to SNC-Lavalin. But they have now.

...and don’t stop following that money

In his statement to Mexican officials, obtained by 24 Hours, Mr. Flensborg said that in October of 2011 he met with Gillispie and Davila, first in Mexico and then in Switzerland. There is no explanation of why they were in Mexico, but in Switzerland they were ostensibly working on an investment project in Kosovo and Iraq.

Kosovo, according to Mexican officials, was a refuelling stop in the first attempt to fly Saadi Kadhafi out of Libya.  This is the effort that was allegedly abandoned when the pilots deemed it too dangerous to land in Libya – and which dovetails with the time that Vanier and Peters were in Libya on a “fact-finding” mission.

The second plot was allegedly underway when the four arrests were made on November 10 and 11. Recall, Peters has said there was a plan to move Kadhafi from Libya to Mexico, but it was abandoned on June 16 when all legal means were exhausted.

In his statement to the court Flensborg, the Danish employee of Veritas Worldwide Security who was allegedly in charge of logistics, made a startling admission: he stated that on November, 11, 2011, he too was supposed to meet with Stephane Roy. It may be that Vanier had informed both Davila Huerta and Flensborg that they were to meet with the chief financier of the operation, though it is still possible that Roy assumed his meeting was only with Vanier.

Flensborg himself is an unusual character. At the time of his arrest his former girlfriend and fellow Dane Jackie-Lee Navarro expressed surprise at his alleged involvement. The fashion model, who went out with Flensborg three years ago, said that the arrest was “totally absurd” and that Flensborg was “intelligent, calm, sweet and very helpful” adding that “it’s absolutely ridiculous – he’s not that type.”

But, in interviews with the Danish press, she also alluded to a lifestyle that didn’t add up.

 Navarro and Flensborg in happer times

For the eight months that the two were together in Houston, Texas, they lived like “very, very rich people”. She claimed his income came from selling “expensive life insurance”, and though she never felt Flensborg was involved with any criminal elements, he always made sure she had two body guards to take care of her.

She was left with the impression that he was very wealthy – as part of his work for his insurance company, they travelled extensively in private aircraft. She claims to have not known much about his business, but in reference to the Mexican arrest, she revealed something of his character when she said that her only guess was that things “might not have gone so well financially”.

Specifically, Navarro said that Flensborg knew some “very rich and influential people” in Mexico, where he travelled on business. She never knew what his business was in Mexico, though she was told that his friends travelled exclusively in highly armoured vehicles. She was never invited to join him.

Navarro’s observation that Flensborg might have fallen on hard times may be true: on December 5, 2010,  Flensborg was arrested in Houston on two charges: theft between $500 and $1,500; and failure to maintain financial responsibility. Ironically, his failure to maintain financial responsibility was due to “no insurance” – of what assets the dockets don’t say, but legal requirements usually only apply to areas of high liability, such as automobiles and aircraft.  He was released the next day with bond set at $500.

So...Where’s the money?

Alejandro Poire, Mexico’s interior minister, has referred the “vast financial” resources that the supposed criminal group had access to. It allowed them to sign contracts with private aviation, to purchase forged documents, and to put down-payments on properties.

The known numbers are as follows: $40,000 owed to Veritas Worldwide Security for chartering a Hawker 800 to Tunisia (and Kosovo, and an attempted landing in Libya, if the Mexican authorities are correct in their assumptions); a $57,000 down-payment on a $600,000 property on Punta Mita, near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (Vanier says this was to be her house, not Saadi Kadhafi’s – she needed it because her condominium could not accommodate her dog); and $1.25 million for an apartment at the St. Regis, an upscale hotel and residential complex in Mexico City (no down-payment had been made).

As well, Mr. Peters, in his initial effort to extract Saadi Kadhafi “legally” before abandoning his efforts on June 16, 20011, was offering private security contractors $1,000 a day to be part of the team that would get Saadi Kadhafi  and his family out of Libya.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on February 13, 2012, Peters said that “Nothing was asked of me from Saadi Kadhafi. Beginning of 2011, I instigated or tried to begin a process of getting him or extracting him from Libya to a different destination.”

How is this? Peters is obviously on some kind of retainer. His operations are being financed, and he is instigating some very expensive escape plans for Kadhafi – but not, apparently, at the behest of Kadhafi.

Later in the interview he states: “There was like paperwork, documentation, transportation, air transportation, property acquisition and ongoing security, so to speak. That was the plan. Now he never asked for this. This was done on our own bat to be presented to him to say, ‘OK, boss, you know, OK, Saadi, this is what I think should happen.’”

Gary Peters speaking to ABC

With regard to the “fact-finding” mission, Peters says that it happened on July 16, a full month after the Mexican plans were supposedly dropped. Mexican authorities, however, have not mentioned any previous legitimate outreach for Kadhafi to come to Mexico – something that would have required a direct appeal from Kadhafi himself. And when asked if SNC-Lavalin hired him, Peter says:

“Did they hire me? They didn't hire me as per se. Like, there was no contract written up between me and that company. But yes, they financed that July trip – for that purpose.”

He then laughs, refusing to say who else might have been involved. And when asked specifically how much he was paid to get Saadi Kadhafi to the border with Niger, he says:

“I can't tell you how much we were paid. I mean, that's just going to ... (sighs) ... Um, it was a substantial amount. It was worth it, as far as I'm concerned. But the bottom line is we did it for a friend and a client that needs our support. That's really what it comes down to. But I can't tell you how much it was or who paid it.”

There are only two sources of money for all of this activity: either Saadi Kadhafi, or SNC-Lavalin. Saadi Kadhafi’s assets were frozen, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have cash stashed somewhere. Switzerland, where Gillispie, Davila Huerta, and Flensborg met last year, is a possibility. More likely, however, the source of operational funds is SNC-Lavalin. And clearly, by Mr. Peter’s own admission, he was working for SNC-Lavalin without a paper trail.

Mr. Peters may not want to tell journalists who paid him, but he will have to tell the government. All income must be declared. Presumably, the RCMP and the Mexican authorities already have a good idea who was paying the freight for all of this. And sooner or later Mr. Roy will have to speak.

Ms. Vanier helps point us in the right direction, as well. She wrote in an email to the National Post in October: "Mr. Peters was retained to provide security and close protection for my fact finding mission in July. Saadi Gaddafi did not fund ANY of the work that I have done.”

"Since I was the fact-finder I have full knowledge of who my client is and can confirm that no funds have ever been provided by anyone on an asset freeze or travel-ban list. As had been requested I provided a report to a branch of the Canadian Government upon my return."

So, all arrows point to SNC-Lavalin.

End game

Mr. Peters is about to be questioned this month for possible deportation to Australia. That, in any case, is what he thinks might happen. It is possible the Mexicans could attempt to extradite him, too, though it appears that the evidence against him specific to Mexico is not strong.

Stephane Roy has kept a low profile, unlike his former boss, Riadh Ben Aissa, who says he plans a lawsuit against SNC-Lavalin. Both executives left SNC-Lavalin after news broke of Roy’s trip to Mexico to meet with Vanier on November 11. They tendered their resignations on February 9, 2012.

Ben Aissa, who oversaw SNC-Lavalin operations in Libya and had a close relationship with Saadi Kadhafi, has not said why he resigned. However, he has clearly taken offense to SNC-Lavalin’s announcement upon his departure, which said:

“Questions regarding the conduct of SNC-Lavalin employees have recently been the focus of public attention. SNC-Lavalin reiterates that all employees must comply with our Code of Ethics and Business Conduct.”

There are ripple effects in the United States, too. David Bejarano, the police chief in Chula Vista, California, was listed as executive vice president for law enforcement training on the website of Veritas Worldwide Solutions. He has ended that relationship, though Davila Huerta and Flensborg actually work for a related company, Veritas Worldwide Security.

That said, the two companies are closely linked: both had the same founding partners, Joseph Casas and Gregory Gillispie, and they shared the same website until the Mexico story broke.  Now, references to Veritas Worldwide Security as one of the “group companies” have been removed from the Veritas Worldwide Solutions website.

As well, Casas of Veritas Worldwide Solutions is now distancing himself from Gillispie and Veritas Worldwide Security, saying that he had no idea what Gillispie was working on with his other operations.

“We had different philosophies on business and more importantly on the type of business that we were engaged in,” Casas told local media. “He wanted to pursue other ventures that didn’t fall within scope of our operation, mainly chartering airplanes.”

That may be tough luck for Gillispie and his co-workers, because Veritas Worldwide Solutions’ Vice President of Latin American Operations is Antonio Martinez Luna, a former Attorney General for the Mexican State of Baja California. As Attorney General, Mr. Martinez' biography states that he was “responsible for coordinating the fight against organized crime in Baja California and coordinating those efforts between federal state and local agencies in Mexico and the United States”.

But Gillispie is sticking to his guns. He has told the media that for the Mexican authorities “to be making these kinds of connections, that my partners are doing bogus passports and doing money laundering and trafficking people, this is like somebody's reading a freaking Tom Clancy novel or something. It's ludicrous the way they're piecing this all together.''

As for extraditing Roy from Canada to Mexico, it could be done. It’s a three step process.

First, Canada needs to receive the evidence from Mexico. The evidence has to be for something that is a crime in Canada, too, or what’s called “dual criminality”. The crime has to be serious enough to warrant  two or more years of incarceration.

Second, there is an extradition hearing which occurs in front of a judge. The burden of proof is lower than that at a trial. Essentially, the judge has to determine that the correct person has been detained, and for the correct charges.  

The third step goes to the Minister of Justice. This is where politics enters the fray. If Canada’s Minister of Justice doesn’t think the person is going to receive a fair trial, or if there is considerable political pressure not to extradite, then no one is going anywhere.

For example, Mexico’s Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, a trade union leader, remains in Canada despite Mexican efforts to extradite him. He has been accused by the Mexican government of misappropriating 55 million dollars in union funds, but the Canadian government has refused extradition, as they fear the accusation may be politically motivated.

N.B: La politica is researching for a book on SNC-Lavalin.

To contribute as a possible source, please use the contact information provided below.

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

 If you are having difficulty submitting to the e-mail feed at the top of this page, press "enter" on your keyboard instead of the "submit" button.


  1. Beautifully laid out. Great work. "So, all arrows point to SNC-Lavalin." Just so.

  2. According to the latest CBC article: The husband of the current Ambassador to Libya is STILL working for SNC, as well as the former Ambassador to Tunisia, also still working for SNC.

    In the comments section a Cardamum who described themself as a diplomats spouse laid out some current practices of spouse expectations when it comes to employment choices for them in other countries. DFAIT apparently does treaties and then when the spouse arrives finds out the treaties don't exist. The comment was removed, I can't imagine why. I saw that it had been checked for 'abusive', though there was nothing abusive about it, it simply related what happens on the ground for a diplomats spouse, altho it did contain one comment where it said (paraphrased) 'John Baird can investigate all he wants, because he will never be married', which isn't abusive considering it is an open secret Mr. Baird is gay and Canada is quite liberal about that.

  3. CBC needs to find out if SNC-Lavalin is going to be Harper's choice for the construction of all the new jails we apparently need. I guess that'll have to be put on hold (for now). At least until all of this Conflict of Interest/Financial Interests is put to rest.One of the members of the Board of Directors of SNC is Gwyn Morgan. Gwyn Morgan was part of Christy Clark's 'transitioning team'. He's also a petro politician, CEO of EnCana at one time and an enormous influence on the petrolization of B.C. In Tunisia SNC won a contract from the now deposed dictatorship to build a $340 million gas and thermal power plant. Is there a connection between the former Canadian Ambassador to Tunisia (mentioned in the above CBC article) and SNC's contract? In addition to its massive government-funded military projects, SNC has been recipient of tens of millions from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Between 1978 and 2005, CIDA distributed $1.1 billion of our tax money to corporations like SNC Lavalin, many doing business with repressive regimes around the world. SNC also won the $13.5 million oil pipeline with Iraq, announced last spring, with a Memorandum of Understanding signed with Syria. And we wonder why Canada ignores Syria's plea to remove all Diplomats from Syria. It's not to extract Canadians, it's to keep Business open.