Dhaka- A Bangladeshi national and two Canadian officials, accused of bribery charges involving construction of Padma Bridge, were acquitted, said officials.
Canadian newspaper thestar.com reported that an international corruption case involving former top executives from engineering giant SNC-Lavalin collapsed in a Toronto courtroom Friday after a judge threw out all wiretap evidence and rebuked the RCMP for its conduct in the investigation.
Kevin Wallace, former vice-president of energy and infrastructure, his subordinate Ramesh Shah, ex-VP of the international division, and Zulfiquar Ali Bhuiyan, a dual Bangladeshi-Canadian citizen, all pleaded not guilty to bribing foreign officials in order to secure a construction contract in Bangladesh.
Just before they entered their pleas, federal Crown attorney Tanit Gilliam told Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer she would not be calling any evidence and would ask that the judge acquit the men.
She admitted that without the wiretap evidence, the Crown no longer had a reasonable prospect of conviction.
Nordheimer had previously ruled that the RCMP officer who swore what is known as an Information to obtain in 2011 to secure a wiretap of the accused men’s private communications had failed to provide verifiable information and used language that essentially “trick(ed)” a different judge into signing off on it.
“Reduced to its essentials, the information provided in the ITO was nothing more than speculation, gossip and rumour,” Nordheimer wrote.
“Nothing that could fairly be referred to as direct factual evidence, to support the rumour and speculation, was provided or investigated.
“While I may not be prepared to go so far as to find that the RCMP did not proceed in good faith in this case, there are aspects of the ITO that are troubling.”
Wallace, who was charged in 2013, was the senior executive assigned to the Bangladesh project. His lawyer, Scott Fenton, said he was pleased that he’s finally been vindicated.
“There was no evidentiary basis other than speculation, conjecture, and guesswork for the wiretap that was sought in this case, which resulted in a massive intrusion of the privacy of, in this instance, an innocent person,” Fenton said.
Bhuiyan was alleged to have been the representative of Abul Hossain Chowdhury, a senior Bangladeshi minister. Chowdhury’s charges had previously been stayed. Bhuiyan’s lawyer, Frank Addario, and Shah’s lawyer, David Cousins, said their clients were relieved.
The alleged bribery scheme related to the $2.9-billion Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh. As part of that project, the Bangladeshi government was looking to award a $50-million construction supervision contract. The World Bank was a primary lender in relation to the project.
But the bank withdrew the promised fund worth about $1.2 billion after the allegations that there was a conspiracy of bribery in the case. And Bangladesh decided to go on its own funding for the construction of the mega project.
SNC-Lavalin was one of the five companies short-listed for the CSC component. After the company was ranked second in the bidding process, an investigator with the World Bank’s integrity unit approached the RCMP in 2011 “concerning allegations that had come to (their) attention regarding possible corruption involving SNC-Lavalin and the Padma Bridge project,” Nordheimer wrote.
This included information gleaned from four “tipsters.” Information from one of the four tipsters was considered general in nature and not relied upon. As for the other three, Nordheimer said the RCMP never spoke with tipsters no. 1 and 3, and only spoke to tipster no. 2 over the telephone.
“As is apparent from a review of the ITO filed in support of the first authorization (for a wiretap), most, if not all, of the information provided by the three tipsters had, in turn, been received by the tipsters from other sources,” the judge said.
“The RCMP did not contact any of the sources of the hearsay information relayed by the tipsters, even though some of those sources were identified by the tipsters.”
Nordheimer pointed out that because the RCMP never checked out the tipsters, it’s unclear if there were ever four informants providing information, or simply two individuals using different email accounts.
As was later discovered through the court process, tipster no. 2 turned out to be a “disgruntled competing bidder . . . (who) was also engaged in corrupt practices with respect to the CSC process itself,” the judge said.
Nordheimer also criticized the RCMP for relying on the travel history of the accused to try to confirm the information from a tipster who said it was at a meeting in Dubai where “the deal for the CSC” had been made. A source had said that Wallace would “definitely be” at the meeting, according to the tipster.
The RCMP indicated in the ITO that they knew the men had been out of the country because police had dates on which they returned to Canada through Pearson airport. The travel history came from the Canada Border Services Agency, which could have also confirmed the travel destinations of the men.
Only later did the RCMP ask the CBSA and discovered that Wallace had not been in Dubai at any point in time, yet the RCMP did not include this in subsequent ITOs when it sought to renew the authorizations for the wiretaps, Nordheimer wrote.
“In my view, the only reason for including this travel information in the first ITO was to lead the reader to draw the inference that Wallace was, in fact, in Dubai and thus provide corroboration for an essential allegation made by tipster no. 2,” Nordheimer wrote.
He goes to say: “This is, in my view, precisely the type of language in an ITO that the Supreme Court of Canada derided . . . that is, language that tricks the reader into believing something, the truth of which is, in fact, unknown.”