Hardly any reason for govt to feel vindicated
THE finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, is certainly within his right to be ‘happy’ that a former senior executive of SNC-Lavalin, the Canadian company at the epicentre of the alleged ‘corruption conspiracy’, which prompted the World Bank to withdraw funding for the proposed Padma multipurpose bridge. Muhith is quoted in a report published in New Age on Friday as telling journalists on Thursday that the SNC-Lavalin executive ‘should have been made accused much earlier’ and that ‘it is good that he has been charged, finally’. The operative word here seems to be ‘finally’, as if the charge framed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act somehow vindicates his and the Awami League-led government’s position on the Padma bridge scam, which it does not. It is worth noting that the government has persistently denied involvement of any of its members in the scam. If anything, the charge brought against the SNC-Lavalin executive, a Bangladeshi-born Canadian citizen with business ties in Bangladesh, a former state minister of the previous AL government tends to indicate that the World Bank’s allegations of ‘corruption conspiracy’ involving high officials of the Bangladesh government may not have been unfounded, let alone far-fetched. Most importantly, the investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which does not seem to be over as yet, may still lead to some unpalatable revelations for the incumbents.
Of course, as the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission told journalists on Thursday, the charge against the former SNC-Lavalin senior executive, who is also in the commission’s list of accused, proves the involvement of at least a section of the Montreal-based engineering giant. Similarly, the charge against the Bangladeshi-born Canadian citizen with business ties in Bangladesh could also be an indicator that a section of the businesspeople here may have conspired to help SNC-Lavalin secure the contract for supervising construction of the proposed $3-billion bridge. However, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. If the accused individuals were conspiring to unduly secure the contract, they must have had on board someone who had the authority to award it. Simply put, it is difficult to believe that people tied to the government or the ruling party were not involved in the alleged corruption conspiracy.
Admittedly, such suspicion is circumstantial, which is precisely why a competent and credible investigation of the Padma bridge scam is called for. Regrettably, however, the incumbents have thus far apparently stood in the way of such investigation by protecting the man at the centre of the scam—the former communications minister—on the one hand and brazenly influencing the Anti-Corruption Commission’s probe on the other. Such intransigence of the incumbents, suffice to say, only reinforces the suspicion that they have things to hide and people to protect. If they are so convinced of the innocence of their ‘man’, they should let the investigation and, if needed, prosecution to run their course.
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