Friday, October 20, 2017

High Court sets deadline for update on Padma Bridge false graft claims inquiry

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-03-20 13:36:32 BdST


The High Court has given the government 90 days to file an update over measures against those who made 'false graft allegations' over the Padma Bridge project.

On Monday, the bench of justices Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Mohammad Ullah set the deadline after holding a hearing over a suo-moto rule issued last month.

It ordered the Cabinet secretary, secretaries to the law, home affairs ministries and the bridges division, Anti-Corruption Commission chairman and inspector general of police to file a report within May 7.

On Feb 15, the court issued a rule asking why it would not instruct the government to form a committee or a commission find out the 'conspirators' in keeping with the 1956 Inquiry Act and other related laws.

The Cabinet secretary, secretaries to the home, law and communication ministries, ACC chief and the IGP have been told then to come up with explanations by two weeks.

The court also ordered then the Cabinet secretary to file an update over measures to form the committee or commission within 30 days.

The World Bank raised a stink over alleged corruption in execution of the Padma Bridge project and suspended funding. Bangladesh was forced to withdraw funding request and is now implementing the project with its own resources.

A case was started at a Canada court against SNC-Lavalin, accusing the company of bribing Bangladeshi officials to secure contracts in the Padma Bridge project in 2010-11.

After a long process, the Canadian court acquitted the three employees of Canada-based SNC Lavalin on Friday.

The verdict said the evidence produced in the case was "nothing more than assumptions and rumours."

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has maintained from the very beginning that the allegations were part of a conspiracy and claimed some Bangladesh nationals were involved in it.

Addressing the Parliament recently, she blamed Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus as using then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton for disrupting World Bank funding. The editor of a national newspaper was also blamed for the conspiracy.

On Tuesday, Hasina said she suspected some other reason behind the 'false allegations.'

"Such a critical project for the country was adversely impacted only because one person's interests were hurt," she said while presiding a meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC).

Erstwhile communication minister Abul Hossain was forced to resign following allegations of involvement with the scam. Former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury also faced similar allegations.

Former Bridge Division Secretary Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan was sent to jail over the case.

Later, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigated it and found no evidence against them.

The Padma bridge graft case was dismissed in 2014 after ACC submitted its final probe report. The court acquitted seven, including the secretary from the charges.