12:00 AM, December 03, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 03, 2012

Padma Bridge Graft

Three may be sued

WB team meets ACC, says it is encouraged

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M Rahman

A World Bank team arrives at Anti-Corruption Commission's head office in the capital yesterday to hold a meeting on the anti-graft body's progress in investigations into the Padma bridge project corruption. Photo: Focus Bangla

The Anti-Corruption Commission is likely to sue tomorrow former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury, ex-secretary of the Bridges Division Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and ex-director of Padma bridge project Rafiqul Islam for influencing the selection of a consultant for the project.
Apart from the three, certain top officials of Bangladesh Bridge Authority, Padma bridge project and the local agency of Canadian consultancy firm SNC Lavalin are to be sued, said several sources in the ACC.
Two SNC Lavalin officials are already facing trial in a Canadian court on charges of bribing Bangladeshi public officials to get the $50 million consultancy job in the bridge project.
Preferring anonymity, an ACC high official said, "The enquiry into the alleged corruption conspiracy is nearing completion and we may sue them on December 4."
With the filing of a case, the ACC's enquiry into the WB's corruption allegations in the project will come to an end and the ACC will then be able to start its probe, said the official.
ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman said the ACC enquiry team will quiz former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain and former state minister Abul Hasan today, and then submit its enquiry report.
The ACC will take necessary legal steps following the submission of the report, Rahman told reporters at his office yesterday.
Meanwhile, Ellen Goldstein, WB country director for Bangladesh, said, "If there is sufficient progress [in ACC investigation] then we are hopeful that indeed the bridge can be built."
Goldstein made the comment after the visiting WB external panel met with ACC officials in the latter's office in the capital.
"This meeting was simply to find out what progress was made in the investigation...we are very encouraged so far by the initial meeting…we expect to have more meetings over the next three or four days," she said.
The WB panel headed by Luis Moreno Ocampo, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, earlier visited Dhaka in October.
The two other panel members are Timothy Tong, former commissioner of the Independent Commission against Corruption of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and Richard Alderman, former director of Britain's Serious Fraud Office.
Replying to a query on a recent meeting between the project's co-financiers in Manila, Goldstein said, "This was a set of preliminary discussion in order to determine how to revise the implementation arrangement for the bridge project."
Coming out of the meeting with the WB's external panel at his secretariat office, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said the panel now sees a ray of hope the way the ACC is conducting its enquiry.
The panel wanted to see action, which means launching of an investigation, filing of case and submission of charge sheet, said Muhith.
He said the project's implementation will begin soon after the investigation gets started.
The ACC chairman said, "The World Bank gave us a lot of information and we have to collect data in a way that is acceptable to the court."
The enquiry team has so far interrogated more than 30 people, including Abul Hossain and Prime Minister's Economic Affairs Adviser Mashiur Rahman, in connection with the corruption allegations in the $2.9 billion project.
The ACC launched the enquiry in September last year after the WB raised corruption allegations in the project.
ACC sources said that unless the anti-graft body files a First Information Report, it cannot proceed from its enquiry to an investigation as expected by the global lender.
The WB cancelled its $1.2 billion funding on June 29, saying it had proof of a "corruption conspiracy" involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and some individuals.
The global lender on September 21 decided to revive the loan after the Bangladesh government agreed to the WB's terms and conditions.

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