Canada court dismisses Padma Bridge graft allegation

Canada court dismisses Padma Bridge graft allegation

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Dhaka, Feb 11 – A Canada court has dismissed the graft allegation in Padma Bridge project and acquitted three business executives of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. throwing out wiretap evidence and saying the wiretap applications were based on gossip and rumour, reports the Globe and Mail.Justice Ian Nordheimer of the Ontario Superior Court ruled that he had serious concerns about three applications the RCMP filed in 2011 to get court approval to use wiretaps. The RCMP had sought the approval as it probed allegations that SNC staff planned to bribe officials in Bangladesh to try to win a $50-million (US) contract to supervise construction on the country’s PadmaBridge project.
“Reduced to its essentials, the information provided in the [wiretap applications]was nothing more than speculation, gossip and rumour,” Judge Nordheimer concluded.
“Nothing that could fairly be referred to as direct factual evidence, to support the rumour and speculation, was provided or investigated. The information provided by the tipsters was hearsay (or worse) added to other hearsay.”
The RCMP originally charged five people with corruption in the case, but charges against two of the accused – Mohammad Ismail and Abul Hasan Chowdhury – were previously dropped.
The case against the remaining three accused – former SNC vice-president of energy and infrastructure Kevin Wallace, former SNC vice-president of international development Ramesh Shah, and Bangladeshi-Canadian businessman Zulfiquar Ali Bhuiyan – ended on Friday when Judge Nordheimer acquitted all three.
The decision came after Crown attorney Tanit Gilliam elected to call no witnesses at the trial following the judge’s decision to exclude wiretap evidence.
“The Crown had the opportunity to reassess the case and concluded we had no reasonable prospect of conviction based on the evidence,” Gilliam told the court.
Assuming office in 1996, the Awami League government initiated the project in 1998 for the first time. After returning to power in 2009, it revived the initiative.
The World Bank initially proposed funding much of the project but on June 29, 2012, it cancelled its $1.2 billion funding for the bridge project, saying it had proof of a “corruption conspiracy” involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and some individuals.
A case was filed with a court in Canada in this connection and the hearing in Canadian court began in April 2013.
However, the Anti Corruption Commission in Bangladesh cleared all the accused in the Padma Bridge graft case as its investigation did not find any evidence of ‘corruption conspiracy’ in hiring consultant for the Padma Bridge Project.
The anti-graft national body filed the case on December 17, 2012 against seven people for their alleged involvement in the Padma Bridge project graft dropping the names of key suspects former Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain and former State Minister for Foreign Affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury.
The accused in the Padma bridge graft case were former secretary of Bridge Division Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan (now member of the Privatisation Board), superintendent engineer (river control) of Bangladesh Bridge Authority Kazi M Ferdous, executing engineer (bridge construction and maintenance) of Roads and Highways Department M Riaz Ahmed Zaber, deputy managing director of Engineer and Planning Consultant Limited Mohammad Mustafa, former director (international project division) of SNC LavalinInc Mohammad Ismail, former vice president (international project division) of SNC Lavalin Ramesh Shah and former vice-president of SNC Lavalin Kevin Wallace. – UNB

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