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Bangladesh court clears all Padma Bridge defendants

Image courtesy of the Bangladesh Bridge AuthorityA Dhaka court Monday acquitted all the seven defendants accused of taking bribes from Canandian engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin in connection with the Padma Bridge Project.

The defendants in Bangladesh included the former head of the government’s bridges division, Mosharraf Hossain.

“Dhaka Senior Special Judge Md Jahrul Haque passed the order following the final report submitted by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC),” the Dhaka Tribune said.

The other acquitted defendants were Superintendent Engineer of Bangladesh Bridge Authority Kazi Mohammad Ferdous, Executive Engineer of Roads and Highways Department Reaz Ahmed Zaber, former local agent of SNC-Lavalin Mohammad Mostofa, and its former executives Ramesh Shah, Mohammad Ismail, and Kevin Wales, the paper said.

In 2012, Shah and Ismail were charged in Toronto with bribing officials in Bangladesh after a police raid on an SNC-Lavalin office in Canada.

The Padma Bridge was designed as four-mile long long combined rail-road river crossing.

Because of graft allegations and a breach of tender rules, the World Bank cancelled its $1.2 billion loan to Bangladesh for the bridge, effectively stopping the $3 billion project.

The bank also debarred SNC-Lavalin Inc. and its 100 subsidiaries from bidding on any of the bank’s development projects for the next decade. The 10-year sanction was the longest ever imposed by the World Bank in a negotiated settlement.

The defendants acquitted in the Bangladesh prosecution were accused of a conspiracy to pass confidential information about the tender for the Padma Bridge project to SNC-Lavalin in exchange for bribes.

Prosecutors alleged that the tender evaluation committee didn’t comply with World Bank requirements because it wasn’t independent and included members with less than 10 years of relevant experience, the Dhaka Tribune said.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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