12:00 AM, December 10, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 10, 2012

4pc was for Abul

Mentions Lavalin official's diary; ACC team files Padma graft conspiracy probe report; 7 officials accused, but Abul left out

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M Rahman

An Anti-Corruption Commission enquiry team in its final report has recommended filing case against seven persons, excluding former minister Syed Abul Hossain, for corruption conspiracy in the Padma bridge project.
However, the report, submitted yesterday, says the ACC high-ups should decide on whether Abul Hossain would be sued.
The ACC bosses are split over implicating the ex-minister although the World Bank provided the anti-graft body with “evidence of corruption” against him.
Ramesh Shah, arrested official of Canadian firm SNC Lavalin, in his diary had mentioned Abul as the recipient of 4 percent out of 10pc bribe from the sum fixed for bridge supervision work, sources say.
The 10pc is equivalent to Tk 38 crore.
The seven include former Bridges Division secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and Lavalin officials Ramesh, Mohammad Ismail and Kevin Wales.
The rest are Kazi Mohammad Ferdous, ex-secretary of tender evaluation committee for the bridge construction; Executive Engineer of Roads and Highway Department Reaz Ahmed Zaber and Lavalin's local agent Mohammad Mostofa.
On Tuesday, the ACC team submitted its draft report where it had named Syed Abul Hossain, former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury and businessman Nixon Chowdhury, brother of Ruling Awami League Whip Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury.
The trio were dropped in the final report because the team has no “hard evidence” against them, added the sources.
The World Bank's external panel, which visited the ACC for the second time from December 2 to 5, left Dhaka unhappy over the omission of Syed Abul Hossain's name as a top corruption suspect in the project.
Two high-ups and a legal adviser of the graft watchdog argued desperately with the WB's external panel about why the name of Abul Hossain would not be dropped, a competent ACC source said.
A high ACC official who opposed Abul Hossain's inclusion told The Daily Star that it was true Ramesh mentioned 4 percent against the ex-minister's name. But the Lavalin official did not put any date and this indicates the bribe was not given yet.
Ramesh might have decided to offer the bribe to Abul. But the ex-minister might not have been aware of it and in that sense the ACC cannot blame him, the official added.
"So far, we didn't find any proof in favour of the allegation against Abul Hossain."
But while Abul was the communications minister, the Bridges Division repeatedly dissolved the tender evaluation committee to favour Lavalin. In this regard, the ACC official noted that the investigators had not found any proof in Abul's role in dissolving or forming the committees.
Another official said the ACC needs not defend Abul so much. The ex- minister should be implicated as his name has surfaced. If he can prove his innocence, the court will acquit him.
Yesterday, the enquiry report was submitted to ACC Director General Khondakar Muhammad Aminur Rahman, who will now forward it to legal advisers.
Once the advisers send back the report along with their opinions, the DG will submit it to the chairman and two commissioners. It might take a day or two.
The ACC launched the enquiry in September last year after the WB raised corruption allegations in the project.
ACC sources say unless the anti-graft body files a First Information Report (FIR), it cannot launch a formal 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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