Canadian Cyndy Vanier, accused in a Gadhafi smuggling plot, speaks out from jail in Mexico

The strange story of Saadi Gadhafi, SNC-Lavalin and the Canadian plot to smuggle the former dictator’s son to Mexico got a little stranger Thursday when CBC went long with a jailhouse interview with a Canadian accused of being at the centre of the case. Consultant Cyndy Vanier has been in a Mexican jail since November. She’s charged with running a criminal organization that plotted to sneak Gadhafi and his family out of Libya and to a Mexican villa. Not surprisingly, Vanier rejects those allegations. She also wants the federal government to step in and help her with her case.

From the CBC:

Vanier is furious that last week Mexican President Felipe Calderone was in Washington, D.C., to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama, where he stated confidently that Vanier was indeed at the helm of a multinational smuggling plot.

“I think our government needs to speak out,” she said. “Blatantly, on international TV, before the world, my rights were violated again. I’ve been basically accused of being a criminal by the leader of this country when I haven’t gone through the process yet.”

“We’re supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. We haven’t even been before a judge for that process to take place,” Vanier said.

Caught up in this whole case is SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec engineering giant with ties to Gadhafi’s Libya. Maclean’s‘ Chris Sorenson and Erica Alini wrote about the company in the magazine last month:

(A)llegations (have) surfaced that SNC-Lavalin spent millions lavishing Gadhafi with expensive gifts, ranging from cases of champagne to hunting trips. More troubling are links that have emerged to a bizarre plot to smuggle Gadhafi out of Libya into neighbouring Niger last August, in apparent contravention of a UN ban on his travel.

So far, two SNC-Lavalin executives have been sacked in apparent connection with the affair. The company is also probing $35-million worth of unexplained construction project payments, although it hasn’t said whether they are connected to Gadhafi or Libya. Investors are nervous, sending shares down by more than 25 per cent over the past month. Some are even seeking a class action lawsuit that accuses senior management of being “engaged in unlawful activities in Libya.” SNC-Lavalin has denied any wrongdoing.

It is also hardly the first time SNC-Lavalin has been swept up in such an international mess—and one that reveals an ugly side of operating in countries where corruption is common. Indeed, some experts suggest that any company working in the developing world, where personal relationships are paramount, is bound to get its hands dirty from time to time. Others, however, aren’t convinced that SNC-Lavalin tried hard enough to avoid falling into that trap in Libya.

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