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World Bank suspends Bangladeshi bridge loan amid corruption probe

SNC-Lavalin has launched its own investigation into the matter.

Christinne Muschi/Reuters/Christinne Muschi/Reuters

The World Bank has suspended its $1.2-billion (U.S.) loan for a Bangladeshi bridge project as an investigation deepens into allegations of corruption in a bidding process that has a Canadian connection.

World Bank officials said they will not proceed with the financing until the investigation is complete.

The bank said last month it had tipped off Canadian authorities regarding alleged corruption in the bidding process for the Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh that might have involved employees of Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

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The Mounties raided Toronto-area SNC-Lavalin offices several weeks ago in connection with the company's bid to oversee the World-Bank-sponsored bridge project.

SNC-Lavalin said at the time it had launched its own internal investigation into the matter.

The company said it failed to win the contract it bid on – valued at about $10-million (Canadian) – to supervise the contractor in charge of the overall project.

Angela Walker, manager of South Asia external affairs at the World Bank, said on Thursday that the institution's independent integrity vice-presidency has "shared information" about the Padma Bridge project with the government of Bangladesh.

"The World Bank Group works in challenging governance environments, while maintaining standards of integrity that allow the most effective use of our resources," the bank said in a statement Thursday.

SNC-Lavalin spokeswoman Leslie Quinton said in an e-mail: "We have not heard any news about the state of the existing investigation and we are continuing our own internal inquiry into the situation. We have zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour and hope to get to the bottom of it soon."

RCMP spokesman Sergeant Marc Ménard said there is "no change" in the status of the police investigation.

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The World Bank agreed to the loan earlier this year. The $2.9-billion project is to build a 6.15-kilometre multipurpose bridge across the Padma River, linking the country's underdeveloped south with the capital city of Dhaka as well as the main port of Chittagong.

Other partners in the international lending consortium led by the World Bank include the Asian Development Bank, the Japan International Co-operation Agency and the Islamic Development Bank.

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