The High Court on Wednesday asked the government to explain in two weeks why it would not be directed to constitute a commission to find out people behind the ‘conspiracy against the government making false story of corruption’ in Padma bridge project.
In the ruling issued suo moto, the bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice Mohammad Ullah also asked the government to explain why the conspirators would not be brought to justice after the investigation into the matter by the commission.
The secretary to cabinet division and secretaries of the ministries of home, law and communication, the inspector general of police and the Anti-Corruption Commission chairman were asked to reply to the ruling.
The bench asked the cabinet secretary to submit a report on compliance of ruling to the court in 30 days.
It set March 20 for passing further order in the matter.
The bench passed the order suo moto taking cognisance of a report carried by Bangla daily Inqilab on February 14 under caption ‘Yunuser bichar dabi’ (Trial of Yunus demanded).
The court order came after law minister Anisul Huq at a meet the press programme on Tuesday said that the government cannot prosecute the World Bank as per an agreement with the multilateral lending agency but ‘this does not mean that aggrieved persons will not be able to lodge case. I think that they should consult lawyers.’
Earlier on Monday, the prime minister while presiding cabinet meeting alleged that Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus was behind the conspiracy to stop the World Bank fund for Padma bridge project in a bid to malign her government.
She told the cabinet that a quarter was active to link her family members to the allegations of corruption conspiracy in the project, but failed to prove it as a Canadian court on February 11 cleared the government of the allegations.
The High Court said that charges of corruption conspiracy in awarding Padma Bridge construction work was brought against some high officers of the government including a minister.
The World Bank and other lending agencies had withdrawn funding in the project that caused serious detrimental effect to the project and tarnished the image of the government and the nation, the court said.
It said that no such allegation was proved in the investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission and other investigating agencies.
The minister concerned had, however, to resign and the secretary concerned suffered seriously as he was arrested on corruption charge.
The Canadian court also brought corruption charges against a former SNC Lavalin’s executive and his subordinates who had secured a construction contract for the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project.
After the completion of trial, the Canadian court found the three not guilty of the accusation and termed it baseless and fabricated.
‘The whole episode of corruption is created by a quarter to jeopardise the nation’ and people involved in the conspiracy against the government and the national needed to be identified and brought to justice, the High Court order said.
The alleged bribery scheme related to the $2.9-billion Padma bridge project. As part of that project, the government was looking to award a $50-million construction supervision contract.
SNC-Lavalin was one of the five companies shortlisted for the supervision contract. After the company was ranked second in the bidding process, an investigator with the World Bank’s integrity unit approached the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2011 concerning allegations that had come to their attention regarding possible corruption involving SNC-Lavalin and the Padma Bridge project.
The World Bank was a primary lender to the project. In 2012, the bank finally cancelled its $1.2 billion credit programme to the project citing ‘conspiracy of corruption’ in the tender.
Other lenders like Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency also suspended loans to the same project.
14-party demand compensation from WB
Meanwhile, the ruling Awami League-led 14-party alliance on Wednesday demanded the World Bank pay US$ one billion in compensation for delaying the start of the construction of the Padma Bridge bringing graft allegation.
Mohammad Nasim, spokesperson of the 14-party alliance, made the demand at a meeting at Awami League President Sheikh Hasina’s political office at Dhanmondi in Dhaka, reports BSS.
Nasim, also an Awami League presidium member, said the country has been affected badly financially due to false allegation involving the Padma Bridge funding made by the World Bank and demanded the Bank pay US$ one billon in compensation for the loss incurred due to several years’ delay in starting the project.
Besides, Nasim demanded the Speaker call Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus and others involved in the conspiracy to stop funding the Padma Bridge project to parliamentary standing committee to explain their position.
Mohammad Nasim alleged that Muhammad Yunus took steps to influence the World Bank to stop financing the Padma Bridge.
Nasim warned that those involved in anti-state activities and falsehood campaign against the country would not be spared.
Awami League joint secretary Mahbub ul Alam Hanif, organising secretaries Ahmed Hossain and Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, office secretary Dr Abdus Sobhan Golap, workers party general secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha, Shamyabadi Dal general secretary Dilip Barua, Jatiya party secretary general Sheikh Shahidul Islam and Awami League information and research secretary Afzal Hossain were present at the meeting.