June 25, 2012 / 9:08 PM / 8 years ago

Accused SNC-Lavalin execs appear in Toronto court

* Two former executives charged under bribery act

* Allegations relate to Bangladesh bridge project

* Preliminary hearing set for next year

TORONTO, June 25 (Reuters) - Two former executives of Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc accused of bribing officials in Bangladesh appeared in a Toronto court on Monday to set a date for a preliminary hearing that will start next year.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested the executives, Ramesh Shah, 61, and Mohammad Ismail, 48, in February following a 2011 raid on SNC offices. The company is one of the world’s largest engineering firms.

The Toronto-area men were charged under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, which targets any person who, “directly or indirectly gives, offers or agrees to give or offer a loan, reward advantage or benefit of any kind to a foreign public official”.

Their preliminary hearing will be held in Toronto early next year, according to a court clerk.

Neither SNC-Lavalin nor the RCMP would comment.

Canadian authorities launched an investigation last year into alleged corruption in the bidding process for the Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh.

The case was brought to Canada’s attention by the World Bank, which had agreed to lend Bangladesh $1.2 billion to build the 6-km (4-mile) bridge linking the country’s underdeveloped south with the capital, Dhaka, and the main port of Chittigong.

SNC had bid to supervise the contractor on the project. The company did not win that contract, which would have been worth C$10 million.

The World Bank has since suspended its loan, and temporarily barred a SNC-Lavalin subsidiary from bidding on its contracts in the country.

The Montreal-based company is also caught up in an investigation into $56 million in mysterious payments to “agents” on construction contracts, who, in fact, did not exist.

In March, Pierre Duhaime resigned as chief executive of 101-year-old SNC after revelations he had authorized the payments, but details surrounding the matter remain shrouded in mystery.

The company’s shares fell C$1.08, or 2.8 percent, to C$37.48 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.

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