World Bank suspends finance for Bangladesh bridge on corruption allegations

Reuters, Sunday 9 Oct 2011

World Bank decided it would not finance the Padma River bridge project in Bangladesh, until corruption allegations against a tender participant are resolved

Padma River (Photo: Reuters)

A $1.2 billion World Bank credit to Bangladesh to finance the country's longest river bridge has been suspended until corruption allegations against a tender participant are resolved, Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said on Sunday.

"The government has taken the allegation of corruption very seriously and the guilty, if found, will be punished," Muhith said.

"The World Bank has cleared its position during the Washington meeting last week that it would not finance (the river project) until the issue was settled."

In the early September of this year a World Bank spokesman in Washington said that Canadian authorities were investigating employees of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc of possible corruption in the bridge project.

Construction of the $2.9 billion bridge over the Padma River to connect the northwest of the country to the capital Dhaka and Chittagong port was expected to begin before end of this year.

This is the first time that Bangladesh's prime development financier suspended promised funds, a move officials say could raise alarm among other lenders.

Bangladesh topped the list of world's most corrupt countries for five years until 2005, but the rating has slightly improved over the past few years.

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