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ACC probe into Padma Bridge graft case hits snag

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By UNB, DHAKA
09th-Feb-2014       
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The Anti Corruption Commission's (ACC's) investigation into the much-talked-about Padma Bridge graft case has hit a roadblock as it is unlikely to be able to collect substantial information from the Canadian authorities until the trial facing by some graft suspects completes there.
The anti-graft body filed a 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 ACC, meanwhile, completed the much-sought investigation into the graft case on Bangladesh side last year, but it is still waiting to see the completion of trial of the Canadian court and receive evidence, including Ramesh's diary, from the Canadian authorities to initiate the investigation on Canadian side, said sources at the Commission.
Ramesh Shah, a Bangladeshi origin Canadian national and one of the key graft suspects, reportedly mentioned in his diary that four percent will be given to former Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain in hiring consultant for the giant Padma Bridge project.
Earlier, a case was filed with a court in Canada in connection with the Padma Bridge graft and its hearing continues there. The hearing in Canadian court began in April 2013.
On May 20 in 2013, a two-member ACC team - its chief legal adviser, Advocate Anisul Huq and deputy director Mirza Zahidul Alam - went to Canada to be present at hearing of the Canadian court and collect evidence. Later, in November 2013, Advocate Anisul Huq went to Canada to collect information and documents related to the Padma Bridge corruption conspiracy case.
During their visits to Canada, the ACC tried to collect the copy of Ramesh's diary and interrogate Mohammad Ismail, Ramesh Shah and Kevin Wallace (three key graft suspects facing trial in Canadian court), but the ACC failed to do so, the ACC sources said.
They also met the authorities of the Department of Justice of the Canadian government and sought documents. The authorities declined to provide information as the Canadian court is hearing a case related to Padma Bridge graft. But, the authorities of the Department of Justice assured their Bangladesh counterpart of providing documents after the disposal of the case.
"We couldn't interrogate Ismail, Ramesh and Kevin Wallace as their lawyers didn't agree to quiz them," Law Minister Advocate Anisul Huq, also a former ACC legal adviser, told UNB.
The Law Minister said he has already handed over all the documents (collected during the visits to Canada) to the ACC since he is no more with the national graft watchdog.
"We collected the certified copies of the witnesses' statements taken in Canadian court and the documents were handed over the ACC…now it can start investigation," Anisul Huq said.
Asked whether the documents collected by the ACC are enough to prepare a charge-sheet of the Padma bridge graft case, the former ACC legal adviser declined to make any comment.
The ACC sources said if the Canadian court can dispose of the Padma graft case soon, the ACC will be able to prepare the charge-sheet collecting documents from the Canadian authorities.
"If the ACC can collect the copy of Ramesh's diary and interrogate Ismail, Ramesh and Kevin Wallace, everything will be clear," a senior official at the ACC told UNB wishing anonymity.
ACC commissioner M Shahabuddin is, however, hopeful of submitting charge-sheet in the case within a couple of months as the graft watchdog collected some important documents through its own sources from the Canadian authorities.
About Abu l Hossain's involvement in the alleged graft conspiracy, Anisul Huq said the World Bank had brought a graft accused from Bangladesh to Canada assuring him that he would not be named in the Padma graft case and took his confessional statement. "The man who gave confessional statement in Canada did not mention the name of the former Communications Minister," he added.
The accused in the Padma bridge graft case are former secretary of Bridge Division Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan (now member of Privatization 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.
SNC Lavalin is a Canadian consultancy firm, which participated in bidding process in getting work in the Padma Bridge project.
However, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has already laid charges against former State Minister Abul Hasan Chowdhury over the alleged corruption in the Padma bridge project.

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