Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Tuesday demanded apologies and compensation from the accusers of corruption in the construction of Padma Bridge.
"I think the slanderers should now apologise and provide compensation for their remarks," he said at a discussion meeting organised by the foreign ministry at the Foreign Service Academy.
Referring to corruption allegations against former government officials involved in the project, the minister said, "Mashiur Rahman, Mosharraf Hossain, whom we have known all our lives, are incorruptible…they are like our big brothers. These allegations against them are totally fabricated."
Momen went on to say, "We tend to think that everything the foreigners say is true. Many of our scholars who jump on the bandwagon of foreigners should realise that their words are not always reliable," he said.
Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, former secretary, Department of Road Transport and Bridges, said the World Bank made allegations of corruption on the Padma Bridge project based on anonymous letters and emails.
Mashiur Rahman, Economic Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister, said the World Bank's jurisprudence is weak.
"I told officials of the World Bank that the biggest weakness of their jurisprudence is that they keep the identities of their informants confidential and give them all kinds of protection," he said, adding that he had no involvement in the construction of the Padma Bridge.
Mashiur continued that he was appointed as integrity adviser in the project by the Bangladesh government and was tasked to advise the World Bank and the government on how to handle complaints or rule violations.
"The local office of the World Bank requested me several times to visit the project area, listen to the complaints of the people there and inquire into them. Besides, they [World Bank] told me that I should advise the prime minister to sack Abul Hossain from [the position of] minister," he said.
Mashiur refused to inquire about the complaints and refrained from making any recommendation to the prime minister about sacking Hossain.
In 2012, the World Bank alleged that Hossain, then communication minister, was involved in corruption in the tender process of the mega infrastructure project. Based on the allegation a case was initiated by the Anti-Corruption Commission, which named seven accused, including Hossain. In 2019, he was exonerated of the charges.
Also speaking on the occasion, economist Selim Raihan said, "We are building mega physical infrastructure like the Padma Bridge and it is now high time for us to build mega social infrastructure. If we can invest heavily in sectors like education and health, we will be able to realise the dream the Padma Bridge has shown."