After diplomatic tug-of-war for months, finally the World Bank has decided to finance proposed Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh. Our Washington correspondent said, the decision of the World Bank has already been conveyed to other donors such as Asian Development Bank, JAICA and others. World Bank will make a formal announcement in this regard within couple of hours. A source inside World Bank told the Weekly Blitz correspondent that, the decision to finance Padma Bridge project was tabled for discussion from first hour on Thursday and the management of the bank finally agreed to “move ahead” with their investment in the project. It may be mentioned here that, on June 29th, World Bank cancelled the loan offer of 1.2 billion dollars due to serious allegations of corruption. Meanwhile, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other investigation agencies in Canada and USA are already investigating the issues related to corruption centering the pre-tender activities of the construction of the project.
It is indicated by World Bank authorities that the construction of the project will begin in January 2013.
Meanwhile, though the latest news of World Bank’s agreeing to finance the Padma Bridge project would generate juvenile situation within the current government in Bangladesh, reports related to high-profile corruption centering the Padma Bridge project is expected to be published by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well as other investigation agencies by the end of October through international media. A team of Royal Canadian Mounted Police already visited Bangladesh and handed over their findings and evidences centering corruption in Padma Bridge project to the Anti Corruption Commission.
Meanwhile, two former executives with SNC-Lavalin will be back in court next year to face a corruption charge related to the Padma bridge project, reports The Canadian Press.
Ramesh Shah , of Oakville and Mohammad Ismail, 48, of Mississauga are accused of trying to bribe officials in Bangladesh. Ramesh had been a vice-president and Ismail was director of international projects at SNC-Lavalin in Toronto.
The prosecution alleges they offered payment to secure contracts for the supervision and construction of the Padma Bridge and an elevated expressway in Dhaka. No money actually changed hands but the accused are alleged to have violated the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Officials Act.
The preliminary hearing was set for April 8-19, 2013.
SNC-Lavalin had submitted its bid to act as the owner’s engineer for the Bangladesh government to supervise the contractor responsible for Padma Bridge construction.
Following allegations of irregularities in the construction of the Padma Bridge project, the World Bank last September suspended its US$ 1.2 billion fund for the bridge and launched an investigation on the projects bidding process.
This year, the World Bank temporarily barred a unit of SNC-Lavalin from bidding in new World Bank projects following an investigation into the Padma Bridge project.
Following a WB request, the RCMP launched an investigation against the Canadian company last October. It raided its office, seized documents from there and arrested former chief executive Pierre Duhaime, Bangladeshi-born Canadian citizen Ismail Hossain and Indian-born Canadian citizen Ramesh.
They claimed that they had gleaned information from the detainees and found proof of various irregularities regarding the consultant’s appointment for the bridge project.
They also claimed that the Canadian company SNC-Lavalin had offered several influential Bangladeshis, including former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain, fat bribes to obtain the consultant’s job in the bridge project.
The five others, whose names came up in the RCMP investigation, are: Abul Hasan Chowdhury, ex-state minister for foreign affairs, Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, ex-secretary of the Bridges Division of the communications ministry, Rafiqul Islam ex-director of Padma Multipurpose Bridge project, Mujibur Rahman Chowdhury alias Nixon Chowdhury, civil contractor and younger brother of parliament whip Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury, and Ziaul Huq, managing director of Engineering and Planning Consultant Ltd [CEP], who represented SNC-Lavalin in the Padma bridge tender, said ACC sources.
Like RCMP, the ACC also launched an investigation in February this year. They also sought information from the WB and the RCMP.