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Thursday, November 29, 2012
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Financing to depend on probe progress

Says WB on Padma loan; external panel arrives again on Saturday

The World Bank in a statement yesterday said financing for the Padma bridge project hinges on the progress of the investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission into the corruption allegations.

The bank's external panel of anti-corruption experts will make its second visit to Dhaka on December 1 to assess whether the ACC has made progress in its investigation into the evidence of corruption under the project, noted the release.

In anticipation of the panel's visit to Dhaka, the Padma bridge co-financiers gathered in Manila for preliminary discussions on revising project implementation arrangements.

Led by Luis Moreno Ocampo, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the three-member panel first visited Dhaka on October 14.

The panel discussed how it would work with the ACC, and encouraged the commission to move from preliminary inquiry to a deeper investigation of corruption evidence, said the statement.

Following that visit, the World Bank integrity vice presidency provided the ACC with additional information on November 13 about evidence on graft allegation.

The global lender on June 29 cancelled its $1.2 billion credit for the scheme due to an “insufficient response by Bangladeshi authorities” to evidence of a conspiracy of corruption involving senior public officials.

The release also cited that the government pledged to the WB and all the co-financiers to place all public officials suspected of involvement in the corruption scheme on leave from government employment until the investigation is complete; appoint a special inquiry and prosecution team within the ACC to handle the investigation; grant access to all investigative information to an external panel of internationally recognised experts to advise the WB and co-financiers on the credibility of the ACC's investigation; and revise implementation arrangements for the project to give the WB and co-financiers greater oversight of the procurement processes.

WB PANEL TO MEET ACC OFFICIALS
The WB external panel is scheduled to meet the ACC officials on December 2 to asses the progress of the ACC investigation into the Padma bridge corruption allegations.

ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman told this to newsmen at his Segunbagicha office in the capital yesterday.

Asked whether the ACC would quiz former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain in presence of the WB panel, he avoided giving a direct answer.

If the person who has been summoned for quizzing and the WB panel mutually agree on such an interrogation method, then the ACC will interrogate the very person before the panel, he added.

The ACC chief said such interrogation is possible according to terms of reference signed between the government and the WB.

The anti-graft watchdog has summoned Abul to appear before it on November 3.

Meanwhile, a four-member ACC team yesterday quizzed five more persons including former Padma bridge project director Rafiqul Islam in connection with the corruption conspiracy in the project.

The outcome of the interrogation could not be known.

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