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Canada court finds no proof of Padma bridge bribery conspiracy

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Ontario : A court in Canada has acquitted three business executives of charges that SNC-Lavalin Group Inc staff planned to bribe Bangladesh officials in a bid to win a $50 million contract to supervise the Padma Bridge construction, local media say. Justice Ian Nordheimer of the Ontario Superior Court has thrown out wiretap evidence that formed the basis of the prosecution’s case, saying it was based on gossip and rumour, according to Candian newspaper The Globe and Mail.

The judge’s decision taken in January was subject to a publication ban until Friday, the newspaper said. “Reduced to its essentials, the information provided in the [wiretap applications] was nothing more than speculation, gossip and rumour,” it quoted Justice Nordheimer as saying in the judgment.

The three acquitted in the judgment are former SNC vice-president of energy and infrastructure Kevin Wallace, former SNC vice-president of international development Ramesh Shah and Bangladeshi-Canadian businessman Zulfiquar Ali Bhuiyan.

The charges against two other accused in the case – Mohammad Ismail and Abdul Hasan Chowdhury – had been dismissed earlier.

The World Bank alleged corruption in Padma Bridge project and began investigation in 2010. It requested the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to take necessary actions based on the evidence they got during their own investigations and from ‘four informants’, whom the court has now called ‘tipsters’.

Later, RCMP gave permission to record telephone conversations of a few officials of Canadian construction firm SNC-Lavalin. It also searched the office of the firm. Justice Nordheimer said he did not read any of the information the RCMP gathered through their wiretaps, basing his ruling only on the process used by police to obtain approval to use wiretaps.

The World Bank withdrew the funds it had promised for the Padma Bridge project following the alleged corruption.Bangladesh is now building the bridge with its own money. A Chinese firm has been tasked with the construction of the bridge.Bangladesh also found no evidence of suspected corruption in the project.

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