$1.5B class action suit launched against SNC-Lavalin

Corporate headquarters of SNC-Lavalin on René-Lévesque Blvd, in Montreal. (QMI Agency file photo)

Corporate headquarters of SNC-Lavalin on René-Lévesque Blvd, in Montreal. (QMI Agency file photo)

Brian Daly, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:19 PM ET

MONTREAL - Engineering giant SNC-Lavalin has taken another hit over its controversial ties to Libya's Gadhafi regime with word Wednesday of a $1.5 billion class action suit by investors.

Rochon Genova LLP announced the suit against SNC. It's the second such legal action against the embattled company this year.

SNC has acknowledged $35 million had been earmarked for construction projects in Libya but ended up being spent elsewhere.

The RCMP raided the firm's headquarters in mid-April but wouldn't say if the raid was connected to the questionable payments.

The latest suit would cover anyone who bought SNC shares between Feb. 1, 2007 and this past February, Rochon said in a statement.

Rochon accused SNC of committing securities violations and issuing misleading financial statements.

"(An SNC) investigation ... found the company had made $56 million of improper payments to foreign agents," the statement said. "Those payments had been authorized by the company's former CEO Pierre Duhaime."

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

SNC has had business dealings in Libya for the past 35 years and has come under fire for its ties to dictator Moammar Gadhafi who was killed in a popular uprising last October.

Company contractor Cynthia Vanier is currently in a Mexican jail after she was arrested and accused of trying to sneak Gadhafi's son, Saadi, and three other family members into the country.

Swiss officials arrested former SNC executive Riadh Ben Aissa last month on corruption, bribery and money laundering charges related to alleged activities in North Africa.

SNC president and CEO Pierre Duhaime was ousted in March amid the scandal.

Three weeks earlier, a Montreal law firm asked a judge to approve a $250-million class-action lawsuit against SNC-Lavalin for "unlawful activities in Libya."

A judge has yet to approve the Quebec suit or the allegations.