Filing of cases in Padma bridge graft to start in December

The Anti-Corruption Commission is likely to sue some top officials of Bangladesh Bridge Authorities and Padma bridge project by mid-December for influencing the selection of the consultant for the troubled venture.

But the anti-graft body may not implicate in the case former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain or prime minister’s economic affairs adviser Mashiur Rahman at this stage. The two went on leave recently in line with the World Bank’s condition to revive its $1.2 billion loan deal.

In its First Information Report (FIR), the commission will also bring allegations against officials of the local agency of the Canadian consultant firm, SNC Lavalin, which was controversially selected for a $50 million job in the Padma project.

Through the filing of the FIR, the inquiry into the WB’s allegation of corruption in the project will come to an end. The ACC will then be able to start investigations.

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The filing of the FIR may also pave the way for the release of the WB fund, which the bank has recently revived conditionally.

“During our inquiry we found that officials of Bangladesh Bridge Authorities and the Padma bridge project made frantic efforts to influence the selection process of the consultant,” said a top ACC official, adding: “We verified their phone calls lists and other documents. We also gleaned important information from them during interrogation.”

“We will be able to complete the inquiry by the first week of December and sue them by mid-December,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

So far, the inquiry team has interrogated more than 30 people, including Syed Abul Hossain and Mashiur Rahman, in this connection.

The inquiry opened in September last year but until very recently the ACC seemed to be making little progress in detecting any irregularities in the $2.97 billion project.

Talking to The Daily Star, ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman yesterday said the inquiry team had got some “significant information”. He declined to elaborate on the findings but said the inquiry would be completed in early December.

Replying to a query, he said it was “not a must” to interrogate SNC Lavalin officials to complete the inquiry.

The commission in the meantime is in touch with the Canadian authorities through the attorney general’s office, Ghulam said, adding that he expected an ACC team would soon visit Canada as part of the inquiry.

On September 19 this year, the ACC sent to the Canadian authorities a request for legal assistance to allow its team to quiz former SNC Lavalin officials Ramesh Shah and Md Ismail, who are now in Canadian custody over the graft allegation.

The Canadian authorities are yet to respond to the request.

Ramesh and Ismail are facing trial in a Canadian court on charges of bribing Bangladeshi public officials to get the $50 million consultancy job. The hearing starts in April next year.

The WB cancelled its credit deal on June 29, saying it had proof of a “corruption conspiracy” involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and some individuals.

On September 21, the global lender decided to revive the deal after the Bangladesh government agreed to the bank’s terms and conditions.

It is understood, however, that unless the ACC upgrades its inquiry into an investigation through filing an FIR, further progress in this regard will remain stalled.


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