12:00 AM, October 15, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 15, 2012

Padma Bridge Graft Probe

WB panel starts assessment

Corruption conspiracy is an offence in Bangladesh, ACC tells them in first meeting; discussion 'very productive', says WB country director

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Staff Correspondent

The WB country director along with a three-member external panel of the global lender leaves the ACC office yesterday afternoon.Photo: STAR

The World Bank's external panel yesterday inquired of the Anti-Corruption Commission whether corruption conspiracy was considered an offence under Bangladesh laws, said a senior lawyer representing the ACC.
"They [the panel] wanted to know whether corruption conspiracy is considered an offence in our country. We have told them that it is an offence," said advocate Anisul Huq.
He was talking to the media after the first meeting between the ACC and the WB's external panel assessing the conduct of the ACC probe into the alleged corruption in the Padma bridge project.
The global lender had cancelled its $1.2 billion credit for the $2.9 billion project on June 29, saying it had credible evidence of a corruption conspiracy involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and some private individuals.
The panel, headed by Luis Moreno Ocampo, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, also wanted to know the definition of corruption according to Bangladesh laws, said Huq.
The lawyer said both sides agreed that the probe into the corruption allegations over the project would be conducted in line with Bangladesh laws.
ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman said the team inquired about the process of investigation and trial in Bangladesh.
“We briefed them accordingly,” said Rahman.
Asked whether the panel had made any suggestions to the ACC, he said it did not give them any advice.
The panel met top ACC officials after it arrived in Dhaka yesterday to assess the conduct of the ACC probe into the alleged corruption in the project.
WB Country Director Ellen Goldstein, who accompanied the panel, said they had a “very productive” initial meeting with the ACC.
"They [the ACC] have shown us their full collaboration and the topic of the discussion was the way in which the panel and the ACC will work together so that the panel can provide advice and also assess the characteristics of the investigation," said Goldstein.
The team will submit a report to the WB with its findings. A positive report on the Bangladesh government's handling of the corruption allegations in the project is likely to pave the way for an early release of its $1.2 billion credit.
Timothy Tong, former commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and Richard Alderman, former director of the UK Serious Fraud Office, are the two other members of the WB panel headed by Ocampo.
The WB, which decided to revive its loan on September 21 after the Bangladesh government agreed to its terms and conditions, appointed the external panel early this month to assess the conduct of the ACC investigation.

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