SNC-Lavalin is going to repay cities that were overcharged in fraud-related contracts.

The engineering firm filed a notice of intent on Tuesday indicating it will take steps to repay cities that paid too much for municipal contracts.

Those cities include Montreal, Laval, Quebec, Levis, and St. Cyprien in the Lower St. Laurence region. 

In a statement, SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce said the company has tightened its ethical practices since 2012, and will participate in the ‘Voluntary Reimbursement Program’ administered by the provincial government.

That program gives companies two years to pay back money that was fraudulently obtained in contracts dating to 1996. 

It did not admit guilt in any of the cases, but SNC Lavalin officials told the Charbonneau Commission that they illegally donated money to political parties in order to win contracts. 

“It basically puts anything that may or may not have happened in the past,” said Bruce. “We're saying that there are a whole variety of things that are not very clear, and this is a process that allows us to go in, enter into dialogue and wrap it up globally.”

Cities and public agencies that feel they should also be repaid have 60 days to demand restitution. 

Under the law, companies must repay at least 20 per cent of the value of the contract, plus a 10 per cent administrative charge. The full amount paid will be revealed by 2018. 

Mediation in these cases is being handled by retired judge Francois Rolland. 

Charges still possible

Any settlement means no lawsuits, but SNC would not be immune to criminal charges.

It's a bold move, said Michel Leblanc, president of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce.

“I don’t see today as a source of concern, I see that as a source of relief,” he said, adding that ultimately, he wants the Quebec engineering firm to prosper.

“We want and we still want SNC to succeed. Clearly that's the wish of the business community,” he said.

Fraud cases involving SNC

Quebec's engineering giant has been embroiled in a series of fraud cases in Canada and other countries, most of which are still making their way through the courts.

A number of former executives are facing charges for fraud related to the MUHC superhospital bid. 

Former senior employees, in conjunction with the now-deceased Arthur Porter, are accused of stealing $22.5 million from the McGill University Health Centre.

On Tuesday SNC-Lavalin reiterated that it does not believe any fraud involving the MUHC took place. 

The RCMP charged SNC-Lavalin with fraud last year, saying the company swindled the Libyan government and other Libyan entities and businesses of approximately $130 million.

Last month the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the World Bank does not have to hand over documents concerning a fraud case involving Bangladesh.

In 2014, a Pomerleau employee was charged by the provincial anti-corruption unit after he was accused of trying to sell documents to SNC-Lavalin.