While the historic dream project of much hyped Padma Multipurpose Bridge has turned into reality, and is almost at the end of construction work, at it inception the project was tainted with scandal and alleghations of corruption.
There was a graft scandal regarding the construction of Padma Bridge, dating back to 2016 and 2017. World Bank was to finance the project with $1.2 billion of credit, but they pulled out citing corruption concerns. World Bank group said that Canadian construction company SNC-Lavalin had bribed a Bangladeshi official in exchange for a construction contract.
Two SNC-Lavalin executives were charged in Canada, but after the court excluded wiretap evidence the prosecution withdrew and the court dismissed the case.
In a statement about their allegation of corruption relating to the Padma Bridge and their subsequent pullout from the financing of the project, World Bank has alleged that there had been a conspiracy plotted to stage a high-level corruption in the project.
"The World Bank has credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials, SNC Lavalin executives, and private individuals in connection with the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project," They said in a published statement.
They claimed to have provided the Bangladeshi government with evidence of the corruption plot and stated that they couldn't advance forward with the loan if no action was taken:
To be willing to go forward with the alternative turnkey-style approach, they sought the following actions: (i) place all public officials suspected of involvement in the corruption scheme on leave from Government employment until the investigation is completed; (ii) appoint a special inquiry team within the ACC to handle the investigation, and (iii) agree to provide full and adequate access to all investigative information to a panel appointed by the World Bank composed of internationally recognized experts so that the panel can give guidance to the lenders on the progress, adequacy, and fairness of the investigation. We worked extensively with the Government and the ACC to ensure that all actions requested were fully aligned with Bangladeshi laws and procedures.
World Bank also said that they sent a delegation to the Bangladesh government to seek an explanation from them, but deemed explanation from the Bangladeshi side as unsatisfactory.
"We sent a high-level team to Dhaka to fully explain the Bank's position and receive the Government's response. The response has been unsatisfactory at the time,"the World Bank said.
Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigated the case after the World Bank continuously pushed the government to take action against the alleged perpetrators. After 53 days of investigation, ACC found nobody to be guilty.
On the basis of ACC's report, Dhaka district judge court acquitted all the seven government officials who were alleged to have been involved in the corruption plot. ACC exonerated Syed Abul Hossain and ex-state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury from the allegation of involvement in the corruption conspiracy.
On February 11, 2017, the Canadian court found no proof of the Padma bridge bribery conspiracy and the Ontario Superior Court acquitted ex-SNC-Lavalin executives, dismissing the case.