Thursday 29 March 2012

SNC-Lavalin likely contracted large sums to Vanier Consulting

One of the difficulties in getting the real story with regard to Cynthia Vanier – the Canadian facing charges that she attempted to smuggle fallen Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s third son, Saadi, to Mexico with his family  –  is finding the money trail.

We know very little. On the record, Ms. Vanier was paid $100,000 plus $13,000 in HST by SNC-Lavalin for a fact-finding mission to Libya last July. She invoiced another $395,500, which SNC-Lavalin has refused to honour. In fact, Ms. Vanier’s company, Vanier Consulting, was almost certainly receiving much more than this from SNC-Lavalin.

This is despite the fact that SNC-Lavalin claims Ms. Vanier was never properly contracted to the company. Her main points of contact, VP and financial controller Stephane Roy, and executive VP Riadh ben Aissa, left the company in February. According to SNC-Lavalin, they were acting outside of SNC-Lavalin’s code of ethics, and could therefore not be seen to be properly representing the company.

Worse, the company’s Chief Executive, Pierre Duhaime, was forced out on March 26th after an internal investigation found payments totalling $56 million to un-named foreign agents. The company believes they were tied to two construction projects in Tunisia, but it doesn’t know where the money went.  The company also says it has yet to recover the $22.9-million it had in Libyan banks when the Gaddafi regime collapsed.

The RCMP has now been called in to investigate. They are looking into Ms. Vanier’s relationship with SNC-Lavalin, too, though Ms. Vanier is not allowed to comment on any possible communication due to concerns that she be charged with obstruction of justice.

What is clear to anyone who understands simple math is that Ms. Vanier, unless she was running a charity for SNC-Lavalin, was paid much more than $100,000.

It would seem that the money passed from SNC-Lavalin to Vanier Consulting, Ms. Vanier’s business. Why none of those transactions have seen the light of day, and why they are deemed to be secret by Ms. Vanier, the RCMP, and SNC-Lavalin, when there are two invoices worth $495,500 that all the players are willing to acknowledge, is something of a mystery.

Ms. Vanier made one trip to North Africa in July, 2011. She flew in a Hawker jet to Kosovo, then to Tunisia, and then travelled by land to western Libya. The plane was brokered through GG Global Holdings in San Diego, which then subcontracted to a Mexican-American man in Mexico named Christian Esquino, also known as Ed Nuñez. His full name is Christian Eduardo Esquino Nuñez.

The Mexican case rests largely on testimony from Mr. Esquino Nuñez, who was detained by Mexican authorities on Saturday, March 17th – he is accused of defrauding the Mexican government of 20-million pesos (about $1.6-million) in aircraft.

Greg Gillispie is the owner of GG Global Holdings along with Gabriela (Gabby) Davila Huerta (also known as Gabriela de Cueto) and Michael Boffo, a former DynCorp employee. Pierre Flensborg, a Danish national formerly residing in Houston, is also involved with the company.

Mr. Gillispie came in contact with Mr. Esquino Nuñez, who had a jet-service business out of Toluca, near Mexico City, through Gabriela de Cueto, who was best friends with Mr. Esquino’s wife, Bertha.

Ms. de Cueto is in jail in Chetumal, Mexico, with Ms. Vanier, and Mr. Flensborg is in jail in Veracruz, Mexico, along with Jose Luis Kennedy Prieto, an alleged passport forger. All four are accused of being part of the plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico.

Greg Gillispie is also principal of Veritas Worldwide Security, formerly affiliated with Veritas Worldwide Solutions, also in San Diego. GG Global Holdings brokered the plane, and Veritas Worldwide Security would have been a source of security personnel.

The reason why the Mexican officials see Ms. Vanier as the ringleader is because she was the financial lead on everything: the planes, the security details, accommodation, etc. She paid Gary Peters – the security guard who had worked previously with Ms. Vanier in Canada, and who had also worked for Saadi Gaddafi – who then contracted and paid for the security detail. This was likely to the tune of many tens of thousands of dollars, given that multiple sources have now told La politica that individuals were paid $1,000 a day. There is a paper trail here: Vanier Consulting paid Mr. Peters by cheque.

Apparently, the airplane provided to Ms. Vanier was inadequate. The National Post has reported that the Hawker jet used on Ms. Vanier’s fact finding mission cost $145,000, not including her six-man security team and their expenses. At the $1,000 day rate subcontracted off of Gary Peters the entire team and its expenses would be pushing $10,000 a day (one assumes Mr. Peters would be earning more than those he employed). Ms. Vanier went to Libya via Kosovo and Tunisia from July 17, 2011, to July 26 2011. By these estimates, the cost of security for this trip alone would be over $50,000. 

Saadi Gaddafi (Image: Interpol)

“She wanted an airplane on very short notice. She made the initial payment of $145,000, owed me $81,000. She refused to pay that money. The money she paid was the money I owed Christian. The $81,000 was for brokering,” said Mr. Gillispie in an interview with the San Diego Reader. The brokering fee was then dropped to $51,000.

So, according to that reckoning, Ms. Vanier is already down at least $45,000 from her $100,000 retainer with SNC-Lavalin, not to mention the cost of her security detail. She also owes a lot of money. Yet she was gung-ho for more missions. Mr. Gillispie claims that in early August, 2011, Ms. Vanier said she had to go back to Libya “eight or nine more times over the next 12-month period.”

With this news, Ms. de Cueto apparently called Mr. Esquino Nuñez for a quote. Despite Ms. Vanier’s dissatisfaction with the first plane, Ms. Cueto, Mr. Gillispie, and Mike Boffo, a business partner of Mr. Gillispie’s, flew to Toronto to meet Ms. Vanier. Mr. Peters was present at this meeting, as was Barrie Rice, who had served in the New Zealand Special Forces, and who had also accompanied Ms. Vanier on her first trip to Libya.

The numbers then become huge, with Ms. Vanier wanting “a Gulfstream jet for US$200,000 per month for up to nine months and a smaller Citation for US$100,000 monthly”, according to the National Post.

The Post has also reported that Mr. Gillispie wrote the following in an email to Mr. Esquino Nuñez: “The Citation will be staged in Pristina, Kosovo, where it will be available to conduct emergency extractions out of Libya and Tunisia...In the event that the Citation does execute an on call emergency extract we will pay $500,000 for each trip.”

On August 10, when Gillispie and his partners met Cynthia Vanier at the Region of Waterloo International Airport (Kitchener airport), Ms. Vanier complained that the first flight was a disaster. According to Gillispie, he said he could forgive the money owed if Ms. Vanier would negotiate a 12-month contract.

“I thought I would roll the $81,000 back into the yearlong contract,” Mr. Gillispie told the San Diego Reader. “We left Canada, and we talked to Christian about a full-year Gulfstream and a smaller airplane on-call in Kosovo."

Gillispie negotiated a deal for approcimately $3 million (previous reports fo a $9 million quote were incorrect).

"It took us a couple of days to agree to all the variations that were possible for a contract lasting up to 12 months long.”

This contract was then presented to Ms. Vanier in mid-August, and on August 24th Mr. Gillispie and Ms. de Cueto delivered a Gulfstream III aircraft and the completed contract.

“Cyndy opted to take the 9-month option and signed the contract for a Gulfstream and a Citation. Gas was on top of the contract price. The aircraft and pilots were left with her. The pilots were directed not to fly her or any of her people until we received the first payment. It was on approximately the 28th that we received the wire transfer.”

Now, according to this telling Ms. Vanier signed multi-million dollar contract. What would Ms. Vanier’s profit margin have been? We are clearly entering into a relationship with SNC-Lavalin, her only client, that would enter into many millions of dollars.

Payments, apparently, were monthly. This is over $300,000 a month in airplanes, and we have now heard that Ms. Vanier was good for that first wire transfer. These numbers had been alluded to before in conversations that La politica has had people close to Ms. Vanier, but none of it was specific. Now we have a solid quote from Mr. Gillispie.

To hear Mr. Gillispie describe it, the Mexico connection is simply a happy coincidence, and a matter of convenience. Mexico has the cheapest planes, and Ms. Vanier had property there.

“During the next month, Cyndy flew three times to Mexico, where she owned property. This worked well, as the plane was registered in Mexico, so Christian could do maintenance in Mexico per law,” he said.

However, at the end of the first month of the contract, Mr. Gillispie claims Ms. Vanier refused to pay for the next month. Apparently, she also didn’t pay for fuel for her three trips to Mexico. Mr. Gillispie then informed Ms. Vanier that they were suspending the contract, and that Mr. Esquino Nuñez wanted to be paid for fuel. To try and come to a resolution, Mr. Gillispie and Ms. de Cueto flew to Mexico to meet with Ms. Vanier around September 22 or 23, 2011.

The problems were not resolved, although Mr. Gillispie claims Ms. Vanier then did “another deal with Christian, cutting us out of the deal,” after which “she flew back to Canada, still owing us money and still owing Christian money.”

That recounting seems a little off: what “deal” could Mr. Esquino Nuñez have done with Ms. Vanier if there was outstanding money owed for the fuel?

Nonetheless, apparently one month of a nine month, three million dollar contract had been paid for. Sums that large have never been mentioned before in relation to this story. Ms. Vanier seems to have had only one source of income for this job, and that was SNC-Lavalin. However, SNC-Lavalin is now in such disarray they claim journalists may know more about their rogue spending than they do. And Ms. Vanier and her family say they cannot speak to this matter in more detail as it will jeopardize her case.

But if there was a plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, it is clear that the intellectual author would have to be SNC-Lavalin. If so, then Mr. ben Aissa and Mr. Roy, who are believed to still be in the Montreal area, would be as guilty of attempting to smuggle Mr. Gaddafi as anyone else. Mr. Peters would also certainly be implicated.

The fact that the RCMP has not detained any of these three men would suggest that they are uncertain as to the legitimacy of the overall plot. 

Mr. Peters was let go by Ms. Vanier after August 28, 2011, with a letter of termination having been sent on or about September 1st. Ms. Vanier prepared her own contract with SNC-Lavalin. The first contract was signed June 29th or 30th. The revised contract excluded the use of Gary Peters’ services.

During Mr. Peters' second trip in August, therefore, he was not under contract to Vanier Consulting. This is the trip in which he claims he helped to move Saadi Gaddafi and his family to the Libyan border with Niger. He has said that payments for this came from “Libyans and Europeans”, and that the move was his idea. He has also said that he was handsomely remunerated.

It is possible that Mr. Peters was paid by Gaddafi loyalists, or by agents for SNC-Lavalin. Clearly, SNC-Lavalin had a lot of money floating around North Africa.

As well, La politica has been receiving leaks that suggest Michael Boffo sent emails from his Veritas Worldwide Security account in search of a personal security detachment (PSD) for Saadi Gaddafi. The pay was to have been $1,000 a day – in line with what Mr. Peters has claimed was being offered when, apparently, a legal effort was afoot to extract Mr. Gaddafi before June, 2011.

(Despite repeated efforts, La politica has had no luck getting Mr. Peters, who has made inconsistent statements, to clarify these claims. One of our sources says he may now be in hospital.)

In an e-mail correspondence with La politica, Mr. Boffo claims neither he nor Mr. Gillispie had any knowledge of such a plot.

“I can speak for Greg and I” he wrote to La politica. “We met Cindi Vainer (sic) for 20 min in the fall of 2011.  That's the first and only time we met or talked.”

What is clear is that the money spent on the first trip, as well as Ms. Vanier’s future intentions, could not have been paid out of the invoiced amounts. According to Gillispie, Ms. Vanier said she would have the money on “November 8th or 9th”. Ms. Vanier was arrested on November 10th in Mexico City. Stephane Roy, the SNC-Lavalin controller, was questioned on November 11th, also in Mexico City, while in the company of de Cueto, who was arrested that day.

If the Gaddafi plot is a ruse, the motive for a frame-up may come from the fact that there had been a falling out between Gabriela de Cueto and Christian Esquino Nuñez.

On October 10, 2011, Gillispie, de Cueto and Flensborg, flew to Zurich, and from there to Istanbul (Turkey), northern Iraq, and Pristina (Kosovo) on a two-week trip to negotiate contracts to import sugar, oil, and airplanes.

“Christian was going to fly us, and we could cut him in on the contracts,” says Gillispie. “He would meet us in Europe. We booked round-trip tickets to Zurich.”

However, three days before the trip, Mr. Esquino backed out. An anonymous call was made to the Mexican government questioning maintenance on Mr. Esquino’s planes, and he thought de Cueto was involved.

“While we are in Iraq, Gabby gets an email from Christian saying, ‘I know you’re behind this. Call your dogs off,’” says Gillispie. “After we get back from Iraq, Gabby and Pierre fly to New York to bridge finances. Bertha [Christian Esquino’s wife] loaned Gabby $100,000 for the trip. Christian doesn’t know this.”

Then, according to Gillispie, after de Cueto and Flensborg finished their business in New York, they went on to Mexico City to meet Ms. Vanier. According to Mr. Gillispie, de Cueto called Esquino’s wife on the evening of the 10th, once she arrived in Mexico City, and informed her about the meeting the next morning with Ms. Vanier. That night, the Mexican authorities receive a second Anonymous email detailing a meeting set for the next morning between Ms. Vanier and Ms. de Cueto.

“That information was only transmitted over the phone between Gabby and Bertha,” says Gillispie, “so it could not have been gotten from a hacked email by the Anonymous group, as claimed by the Mexican government.”

As well, an un-named source has contacted La politica to claim that in July 2011, around 10 personal security detail (PSD) specialists were contacted by Michael Boffo on Greg Gillispie's and Veritas’ behalf.  This source has offered information on key players such as Mr. Boffo, Greg Gillispie, and Loren Berenda, who helped broker the plane, that could only come from someone familiar with their activities. It should be noted that the motivation of this source remains unclear, and unless and until the person identifies themselves to La politica, the leaked information will be treated with some skepticism.

According to this source, PSD professionals were contacted by Mr. Boffo off his Veritas e-mail account and told to be on standby for a very lucrative contract protecting ‘a high profile person.’  Pay was to be around $1,000 a day, with travel between Kosovo and Mexico.  However, when it was later learned that the person was Saadi Gaddafi the team fell apart, because the job would “jeopardize their reputation and future ability to obtain a clearance.”

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

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

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  1. You have some admirers/followers that don't post comments, but we are very grateful for your work and sources. And yes we are Canuookies. Ha!