World Bank names ex-ICC prosecutor for Bangladesh graft probe

NEW YORK Sat Oct 6, 2012 8:50am IST

Luis Moreno-Ocampo gestures during a news conference in Tripoli April 21, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny/Files

Luis Moreno-Ocampo gestures during a news conference in Tripoli April 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Ismail Zitouny/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will lead a review of Bangladesh's investigation of alleged corruption tied to a major bridge project, the World Bank said late on Friday.

Luis Moreno Ocampo will head the three-member panel and deliver a report to the World Bank, one of several steps necessary for the Washington-based development institution to resume its $1.2 billion line of credit. Ocampo sought to prosecute individuals for crimes against humanity at the ICC, located in The Hague, Netherlands.

The World Bank canceled funding for the Padma River development in Bangladesh in June, saying it had "credible evidence" of high-level corruption among Bangladeshi government officials.

The Padma Multipurpose Bridge, at 4 miles (6.2 km) long, would be the longest water crossing in the country, linking the underdeveloped south with the capital Dhaka and the main port of Chittagong.

The bank said it would resume financing of the project once agreed measures with the government were implemented.

These include an outside panel of experts to assess the credibility of the government's investigation into allegations of corruption in the bridge project by the specially appointed Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh (ACC).

Joining Ocampo on the panel are Timothy Tong, the former commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong, and Richard Alderman, former director of Britain's Serious Fraud Office.

A report of its findings will also go to the government.

Bangladesh, as agreed, put all officials suspected of involvement in the alleged corruption on leave until a full investigation is completed, the World Bank said previously.

The other measures agreed were the appointment of a special inquiry and prosecution team within the ACC to conduct the investigation; and the introduction of new procurement arrangements for the project, with more oversight and transparency to ensure clean construction of the bridge.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the development lender is committed to ensuring the Padma project is implemented with integrity.

"This panel creates a unique opportunity for the people of Bangladesh to raise the bar on transparency, public accountability and governance," Kim said in the statement.

Two former executives from Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc (SNC.TO), which bid to supervise the contractor on the bridge project, appeared in a Toronto court in July accused of bribing officials in Bangladesh.

Canada launched an investigation last year into allegations of corruption in the bridge bidding process after the World Bank brought the issue to their attention.

(Reporting by Daniel Bases; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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