The Globe and Mail recently reported that the RCMP executed a search warrant at the home of a former senior executive of SNC, Sami Bebawi. Mr. Bebawi was the former SNC executive in charge of construction projects for the company in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) between 1998-2006. Presumably, this means that the RCMP are investigating activities which occurred over six years ago, if not longer.

Under American law, the general statute of limitations holds that any action, suit or proceeding, including an action under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, must be commenced within five years from the date that the claim first accrued. In the recent case of Gabelli v SEC (Supreme Court of the United States, No. 11-1274, February 27, 2013), the United States Supreme Court held that unless the government itself is the victim of a fraud, the five year statute of limitations will be strictly enforced. It is in part for this reason that individuals and corporations subject to American law enforcement investigations and enforcement actions are routinely asked to enter tolling agreements, effectively waiving the statute of limitations.

In Canada, by contrast, there is generally no statute of limitations for indictable offences, including the offence of bribing a foreign public official under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. Accordingly, any foreign company with operations in Canada or a real and substantial connection to Canada should be aware that legacy liability for past transgressions remains, in theory, limitless. In a very real sense, companies with a corporate footprint in Canada remain liable for the sins of their fathers.

type Expanding SNC Investigation Illustrates Key Difference Between U.S. and Canadian Foreign Corrupt Practice Legislation (en anglais)