Investigation into Padma Bridge project corruption begins

Following the recent controversy of Bangladeshi communications minister Syed Abul Hossain’s failure in properly maintaining road communication infrastructure in the country, causing death of a few hundred people only during 2010, the minister possibly is going to fall into a real ditch, as international authorities have already started investigating a serious allegation of corruption and irregularity related to US$ 2.9 billion Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh. If the alleged case of heavy bribery related to the Padma Bridge project, the communication minister will be the second Bangladeshi national caught for receiving bribe from any international company, after Arafat Rahman Koko [son of the former Prime Minister] was already caught to have received huge amount of bribe from Nico. Syed Abul Hossain is considered to be one of the most influential ministers in Bangladeshi cabinet.

After the first-ever foreign bribery guilty plea by Nico Resources Inc, which admitted to bribing a Bangladeshi junior energy minister, who was paid off with the use of a car and a paid trip to Canada and the US, Canadian authorities raided the offices of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. outside Toronto on Thursday in connection with a corruption probe into the engineering giant’s work on a World Bank-funded bridge project in Bangladesh. A spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police [RCMP] confirmed the raids. Without mentioning the Padma project, Leslie Quinton, SNC-Lavalin vice president of global communications, said it was “assisting the RCMP in their investigation on a specific case in which they requested our collaboration.”

“We are complying fully with their requests and are not aware of any reason that would warrant such an investigation,” she said. “Because the situation is under investigation, we cannot comment any further.”

The RCMP launched the probe following a referral from World Bank officials about alleged corruption in the bidding process for the Padma Bridge project. RCMP spokeswoman Const. Julie Morel confirmed that the force had executed search warrants at several locations as part of an investigation of SNC-Lavalin employees Thursday.

A World Bank spokesman said RCMP executed search warrants in “several locations” following a referral by the Bank’s anti-graft unit, which is investigating allegations of corruption in the bidding processes for the Padma Bridge Project in Bangladesh. The World Bank signed a 40-year deal in April 2011 to lend US$ 1.2 billion to Bangladesh to build the four-mile bridge over the river Padma. The bridge will link Bangladesh’s underdeveloped south with the capital, Dhaka, and the country’s main port, Chittagong. Once completed, it would be the largest bridge in the country.

“We have been informed that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is investigating employees of SNC-Lavalin for violations of Canadian law,” the World Bank spokesman said. “We commend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for its robust response to the World Bank referral and look forward to the outcome of its investigation.”

The World Bank is leading a consortium including the Japanese government, the Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank that agreed last year to provide Bangladesh up to US$ 2.9 billion for the bridge. The raid by the RCMP is the latest indication Canada is more aggressively pursuing allegations of corruption abroad by its companies. The case is the second this year involving Bangladesh. The bridge, about 50 km south of Dhaka, is expected to be completed by 2014, improving transportation between Bangladesh and other countries, and establishing a missing link along the longest corridor under the Asian Highway Network that connects Tokyo to Istanbul.

The World Bank last week outlined its increased efforts to prevent and deter fraud and corruption. Over the past year, the bank said its new Preventive Services Unit had helped build precautions against fraud into 48 high-risk projects in 29 countries with a total value of US$ 14.1 billion. The bank said it had trained over 2,700 government officials and bank staff on how to conduct forensic audits and identify suspicious transactions.


Leave a Reply