12:00 AM, December 05, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 05, 2012

Abul stumbling block

WB team not happy; ACC's draft probe report excludes him from the list of people to be sued; meeting again today

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Staff Correspondent


The meeting between the World Bank's external panel and the Anti-Corruption Commission ended inconclusively yesterday, as the panel was unhappy at the commission's bid to drop the name of ex-communications minister Syed Abul Hossain from the draft enquiry report on corruption allegations in the Padma bridge project.
The ACC will hold a meeting with the WB panel today to reach a consensus on the names of persons to be included in the enquiry report.
Wishing anonymity an ACC high official said the draft report has recommended filing cases against the persons involved in the corruption conspiracy in the project.
ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman said, "We [the WB panel and the ACC] had an argument over inclusion and exclusion [of names of persons in the enquiry report]…we will sit again tomorrow [today]."
"There had been a conspiracy to exchange bribes, but we [the WB panel and the ACC] could not reach a consensus on who the conspirators are. They [the WB panel] put forward some certain arguments in this regard."
Ellen Goldstein, WB country director for Bangladesh, said, "At this point, we are still in discussion with the ACC and we believe that some progress has been made, but we will be meeting again tomorrow [today] in order to see if we can fully resolve any outstanding issues that we have."
She made the comment after the WB panel met with the ACC officials to review the draft report filed by the ACC enquiry team.
Sources in the ACC said the two sides had a difference of opinion over the draft enquiry report, as the ACC dropped some names, including that of Abul Hossain, though the WB gave sufficient evidence of corruption against him along with others.
The WB panel argued that there was no scope for excluding their names from the enquiry report, said the sources.
On November 13, the WB Integrity Vice Presidency sent the ACC a third report on corruption evidence.
The report contained detailed evidence of corruption against public officials concerned as well as others, said an ACC official wishing anonymity.
The WB prepared the third report based on information received from the Canadian government and other sources.
The third report mentioned the names of those against whom corruption allegations had been raised in an earlier report. But the latest one contained more evidence, said the official.
The ACC thinks that all the corruption evidence provided by the WB might not be acceptable in Bangladesh courts as some laws vary from country to country, said a source in the ACC enquiry team.
ACC Commissioner Mohammad Shahabuddin said, "There may be a difference between the laws of our country and theirs. What they consider as corruption might not be regarded as crime in our country."
These issues should be taken into consideration, he told reporters.
On the draft enquiry report, he said, "The report stated what they [the alleged conspirators] have done individually or collectively."
He said the report mentioned that the offences the conspirators had committed could fall within the purview of the Corruption Prevention Act, 1947 and the Penal Code.
Shahabuddin said the commission may sue the alleged conspirators tomorrow after evaluating the enquiry report.
The ACC commissioner said less than nine people would be sued for their involvement in the corruption conspiracy, while the ACC chairman said the number would be less than 10.
Referring to the report, the ACC chairman said corruption had been committed in the bridge project but no bribe was exchanged.
The ACC launched the enquiry in September last year after the WB raised corruption allegations in the project.
The WB external 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.
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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