DHAKA, JUNE 11: Finance minister AMA Muhith received the final investigation report of the World Bank's (WB) external experts panel on the Padma Multipurpose Bridge (PMB) Project scam.
In the report, the WB panel noted that they found a criminal conspiracy that includes former communication minister Syed Abul Hossain as the most senior official personally involved, sources said. The absence of the former minister's name as one of the persons accused in the FIR gave an impression to the WB panel that the ACC was not conducting a complete and fair investigation.
The WB's country director, Johannes Zutt, handed over the report to the finance minister at the Secretariat on Tuesday.
“I have not gone through the report yet. It will be published for the people,” Muhith told reporters at a briefing at the Secretariat. He also said that if corruption is proved, those responsible would surely be punished. However, he hastened to add that there was no corruption in the PMB project, though some persons might have conspired to play it dirty. Permission has been given to publish the report on the WB website, Muhith said. The World Bank’s external panel of experts, led by Luis Moreno Ocampo, prepared the report after visiting Bangladesh from December 2-5, 2012.
Earlier, the WB panel wrote to the ACC: “During the inquiry phase, it was also noted that the then minister of communications, Mr Syed Abul Hossain, had met with representatives of competing bidding entities. In the case of his meeting with SNC Lavalin, former state minister for foreign affairs, Mr Abul Hasan Chowdhury, played the role of facilitator. They were also mentioned in Mr Ramesh Shah’s notebook in reference to percentage allocation in the form of Padma PCC (Project Commercial Cost/Project Commitment Cost) after award of contract.
However, at the inquiry stage it has not been possible to gather corroborative evidence, witness statements, circumstantial evidence or complementary statements on Mr Abul Hasan Chowdhury and Mr Syed Abul Hossain with regard to their involvement in this act of conspiracy case. At the investigation phase, the roles of Mr Hasan and Mr Hossain in this conspiracy would be scrutinised.”
“The ultimate award of the contract required his approval. He met SNC Lavalin managers during a reunion requested by secretary Bhuiyan to negotiate the illegal payment. As a consequence of the meeting, his name and the indication of a payment of 4 per cent was included in a list of people that were to receive a compensation for their alleged involvement in the conspiracy. In order to achieve a complete and fair investigation, the serious allegations against the former minister for communications should be thoroughly investigated and he warranted inclusion among the accused. Nonetheless, the panel is taking note of your observation that he will be under a rigorous scrutiny during the investigation,” the panel said.
The panel also said that during the procurement process two Bangladeshi public servants, including Quazi Md. Ferdous (member secretary of the evaluation committee) , Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, secretary, Bridges Division and executive secretary Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), Ismail Hossain, director of an SNC Lavalin subsidiary, Ramesh Shah, vice-president of SNC Lavalin International were involved in the corruption conspiracy.
The WB investigation found that when the bidding result was opened on March 28, 2011, it was found that SNC Lavalin was placed second after Halcrow and after it Mohammad Ismail was trying to change the situation.
According to the WB panel report, on May 29, 2011, Kevin Wallace and Ramesh Shah visited Bangladesh and met secretary Bhuiyan, and minister Hossain. After the meeting Shah wrote on a notepad under the heading “PADMA PCC.” “4 per cent Min”; ... “1 per cent Secretary...”
“A few days later, on June 13, 2011, the BBA submitted to the World Bank for no-objection an Evaluation Report recommending that SNC Lavalin be awarded the CSC contract indicating “issues/concerns” regarding Halcrow’s financial and technical proposals” the report said.
The panel assessed that at least four individuals working for the Government of Bangladesh, including the former minister of communication, should be named as accused in the FIR.