The Anti-Corruption Commission believes the World Bank will continue supporting the ACC investigation in the case over Padma bridge corruption conspiracy though the government has withdrawn its request for WB funding for the bridge project.
ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman yesterday said he had no report that the MoU (memorandum of understanding) between the global lender and the government had been scrapped.
"As long as the MoU is in place, the World Bank will help us, and we will also take their help in conducting investigation," he added.
The chairman made the remarks in reply to queries from journalists at the ACC office.
Asked about the government's withdrawal of the request for WB funding, he said, "The government's schedule and that of the World Bank do not match, as the government wants to implement the project without delay."
Queried if the non-inclusion of former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain in the case had led to the present situation concerning the Padma bridge project, Ghulam said, "It proves the ACC does not yield to any pressure."
He went on, "You guys [journalists] wanted to implicate him [Abul Hossain] as the World Bank wanted to, even though there may or may not be documentary evidence for this. ACC will not give in to it."
The ACC investigation in the case would continue regardless of the latest developments, Ghulam reiterated.
After a year-long enquiry into the graft allegation over Padma bridge project, the ACC on December 17 last year filed the case against seven people for conspiring to commit bribery.
The accused include former secretary of the Bridges Division Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan. But the anti-graft body did not include in the case Abul Hossain and former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury.
ACC REPLY TO WB PANEL
The Daily Star has obtained a copy of the ACC chairman's January 21 letter to Luis Moreno Ocampo, chairman of the WB external panel of experts.
Ghulam Rahman wrote the letter in reply to Ocampo's letter to him on January 9.
In his letter, the WB panel chief expressed displeasure at the non-inclusion of Abul Hossain on the list of the accused in the Padma bridge corruption case. The absence of Abul's name on the list showed the ACC was not carrying out a complete and fair probe into the corruption conspiracy, he added.
Below is the ACC chief's letter to Ocampo.
Date: 21 January, 2013
Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo
External Panel of Experts
The World Bank
1818 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20433
Subject: Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project
I acknowledge with thanks the receipt of your letter of January 9, 2013 on the above subject and would like to reiterate and assure you ACC's told and unconditional commitment to conduct a fair, adequate, transparent, correct and complete investigation of the Banani police station case No. 19, dated December 17, 2012.
The ACC appreciate the Panel's offer or assistance in the fulfillment of its role, in particular to provide training for its staff and technical assistance such as forensic accounting and in investigative planning. ACC would welcome any assistance from the External Panel of Experts and the World Bank compatible with Bangladesh laws, rules and regulations. Visits and dialogue at Panel's convenience may please be considered.
I have asked the ACC's Investigation Team to prepare answers to the questions contained in your above mentioned letter. The Commission has reviewed the replies and annexed them with this letters for your perusal and advice.
In the body of the FIR the names of the former Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain and former State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Abul Hasan Chowdhury have been mentioned as persons who held meetings with SNC Lavalin officials.
Syed Abul Hossain's name came up as the person who was met by the SNC Lavalin officials and Abul Hasan Chowdhury's name came up as a facilitator. Moreover, it was mentioned that their names were written in Ramesh Shah's notebook in reference to percentage allocation in the form of Padma PCC after award of contract. They were not included as accused as during enquiry there was no corroborative evidence, witness statements, etc that they were involved in the criminal conspiracy to take or give bribe.
In any case, in the investigation phase after rigorous scrutiny if Syed Abul Hossain and Mr Abul Hsan Chowdhury or any of them were found involved in the conspiracy, no leniency will be shown or their names will be shown and their names will be included in the charge sheet.
ACC is looking forward to working together with the World Bank's External Panel of Experts to bring to justice all those who were involved in Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project corruption conspiracy through a fair, adequate, transparent, correct and complete investigation.
I am also availing this opportunity to extend to you and to the members of the External Panel of Experts from my own behalf and on behalf of my ACC colleagues best wishes for your good health, great happiness and every success in 2013.