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16 February, 2017 12:25:55 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 16 February, 2017 12:39:05 PM
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WB in the soup

Faces graft probe for ‘misusing’ duty-free vehicles
MUHAMMAD YEASIN
WB in the soup

Less than a week into a Canadian court verdict trashing the global lender’s allegation of corruption in the Padma Bridge Project, the World Bank (WB) appears to have fallen into trouble as the bank itself is facing corruption allegation for misusing duty-free vehicle facility in Bangladesh.
A High Court order yesterday came as a double blow for the bank as the court asked the government to explain in two weeks why it should not be directed to form an inquiry commission to find out those who created false stories about corruption in the bridge project.
The government move and court ruling followed growing demands for action against the WB and other people involved in the spreading false allegations that tarnished the image of the country apart from delaying the implementation of the mega bridge project.
In an unscheduled lively discussion in parliament, several ministers and lawmakers on February 12 came down heavily upon the WB for the false allegations of corruption in the project, saying that the multilateral lending agency should be sued and others involved should offer apology to the prime minister.
Even, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in a cabinet meeting on February 13, blamed the WB for making false stories saying that the country’s GDP growth could have reached 8 per cent by now if the construction of the Padma Bridge Project could be started on time. The project had faced a setback because of the false allegations of corruption levelled by the WB, she pointed out.
The Customs Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (CIID) yesterday sought some documents from the WB regarding 16 vehicles alleging that the global lender had misused the tax-free vehicles.
In a letter, the CIID has asked the WB country director to provide detailed information on the matter within the next seven days.
After sending letter, CIID Director General Mainul Khan briefed newsmen at its office in Kakrail about the move.
“We came to know that the 16 cars were imported 5-6 years ago and were being used (by WB officials). But, the World Bank has not provided us with specific information about the whereabouts of the cars,” he said.
The customs official pointed out that the directorate wanted to know from the WB Dhaka office if their ownership was transferred.
“We have records that the cars entered the country but know nothing about any handover. This is tantamount to criminal offence of violating customs rules,” he added.
The officials of the WB and some other development agencies working in Bangladesh are entitled to duty-free facilities for importing cars, he explained.
“They would either hand over the cars to the customs authorities or hand these over to officials of similar rank. They can even hold an auction in presence of the customs authorities,” Khan said.
In case the WB officials wanted to sell the cars, he added, they would have to take permission and pay taxes.
The WB officials who used the 16 cars have already left Bangladesh on completion of their assignments. The customs authorities believe the cars were sold to third parties.
On the other hand, the HC issued a rule asking the government to explain in two weeks why it should not be directed to form an inquiry commission to find out the people who created false stories about corruption in the Padma Bridge Project.
It also asked the government why it should not be directed to bring the offenders under justice for conducting conspiracy against the nation as well as the government by making false stories.
The HC bench also directed the cabinet secretary to submit a report before it explaining steps taken into the matter in line with the rule in 30 days.
In a suo moto (on its own) move, the HC bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice Mohammad Ullah came up with the rule and order following reports published in some national dailies.
The secretaries to the cabinet division, home ministry, law ministry, and communication ministry, inspector general of police and chairman of the Anti Corruption Commission have been made respondents to reply the rule in two weeks.
Later, Deputy Attorney General Tapash Kumar Biswas told reporters that after passing the order, the HC said it would hold further hearing on March 20 over the matter.
The World Bank raised a stink over alleged corruption in the 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 construction giant 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 two employees of Canada-based SNC-Lavalin and a Bangladeshi-Canadian businessman on February 3.
The verdict said the evidence produced in the case was “nothing more than assumptions and rumours”.
The then communication minister Abul Hossain was forced to resign following allegations of his involvement in the scam. Former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury also faced similar allegations.
Former Bridges Division secretary Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan was sent to jail in the case.
Later, the Anti Corruption Commission investigated the case and found no evidence against the accused.
The Padma bridge graft case was dismissed in 2014 after the ACC submitted its final probe report. Following the report, the court acquitted seven, including the secretary, from charges in the Padma Bridge Project graft case.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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