Bangladesh PM’s son demands apology over Padma Bridge allegations

Dhaka, Feb 11 (IANS) Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son Sajeeb Wazed Joy on Saturday said those who raised allegations of graft in the ambitious Padma Bridge project should apologise to the government after a Canadian court debunked graft allegations in the case.

Joy took to Facebook to lash out at those raising the allegations, reported.

Joy, who is also the Prime Minister’s ICT adviser, blamed the World Bank for raising a controversy over graft and bribery in the $2.9-billion Padma Bridge project. “The evidence was fabricated by the World Bank. I had seen the evidence myself during the whole episode.”

“It was quite clearly made up as there were no concrete details, just one anonymous source who was never revealed, even to the Canadian court.” said Joy.

“The World Bank came up with this plot against my mother, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government in an attempt to discredit her.”

Hasina has maintained that the Padma bridge graft-bribery allegations were aimed at undermining the image of her government and that some Bangladeshis were also involved with it.

She has alleged that Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus had tried to influence then US secretary of state to cut off World Bank funding for the Padma Bridge.

Joy hit out at ‘a section of our civil society’ who had joined the World Bank in raising the stink over alleged graft. “They dragged the reputation of several highly respected, qualified and hardworking people through the mud…” he wrote, according to bdnews24.

His comments came after two former top executives of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin and a Bangladeshi-Canadian businessman were acquitted in an international bribery case linked to the construction of Padma bridge.

Justice Ian Nordheimer of the Ontario Superior Court threw out all wiretap evidence on Friday and rebuked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for its conduct in the investigation, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

The alleged bribery scheme is related to the $2.9-billion Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh. As part of that project, the Bangladeshi government was looking to award a $50-million construction supervision contract. SNC-Lavalin was one of the five companies short-listed for the contract.

In June 2012, the World Bank — a primary lender in the project — cancelled its $1.2 billion credit for the Padma bridge project, saying it had proof of a “corruption conspiracy”.

The three accused are Kevin Wallace, former vice-president of energy and infrastructure, his subordinate Ramesh Shah and Bangladeshi-Canadian businessman Zulfiquar Ali Bhuiyan all pleaded not guilty in the case.

After the suspension of the project, the Bangladesh government, which had been refuting the allegation of bribery attempts, decided to build the bridge with domestic funding.

The main construction of the bridge began in December 2016 and is continuing smoothly.

The project was initiated in 1998 when the Awami League was in power, but it went into limbo when the party lost the general election in 2001.

When the AL returned to power in 2009, it revived the initiative.

Once completed, the 6.15 km bridge will establish direct road communication between Dhaka and 21 southern districts of the country. It will have a railroad as well.

The Taka 230 billion project is the largest ever self-financed project taken up by Bangladesh.