US may return bribe money involving Zia’s son to Dhaka

January 15th, 2009 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 15 (IANS) The US has said that Bangladesh may get the bribe money allegedly paid by a telecom giant to former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s younger son, but “only if the verdict in the case filed by the US justice department goes in its favour”, a media report said.Zia’s son Arafat Rahman Koko is alleged to have stashed the money in bank accounts in Singapore, where he is convalescing in a hospital.

“It is the policy of the United States to, where possible, return corruption proceeds to the victim country. This position is also consistent with the US’ obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption,” an US Embassy spokesman said Wednesday, The Daily Star reported.

He said: “Where foreign law enforcement provides substantial assistance in forfeiture cases, the US and the Department of Justice (DOJ) policy again is to share the proceeds with the assisting country.”

The alleged bribe was paid by German telecom giant Siemens to win a cellphone network contract in Bangladesh. But the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which Koko’s mother Khaleda Zia leads, has denied all charges.

Acting upon the evidence gathered by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) the new government Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has decided to take legal action against Siemens Bangladesh Ltd.

The actions might include blacklisting of Siemens Bangladesh Ltd, barring it from doing business in the country.

Siemens Bangladesh Ltd has admitted that between May 2001 and August 2006 it made payments of at least $5,319,839 in bribes to various Bangladeshi officials and Koko through purported business consultants in exchange for favourable treatment during the bidding process for a contract of Bangladesh Telephone and Telegraph Board (BTTB), the newspaper said.

Siemens Bangladesh got a contract of ‘10 lakh (one million) mobile project’ of BTTB, which eventually morphed into TeleTalk.

“We are looking into all possible legal actions against Siemens Bangladesh and others who were involved in the scandal,” Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, minister for post and telecommunication, told the newspaper.

Asked if Siemens will be blacklisted in Bangladesh, he said: “The government has already taken the issue very seriously as it is related to the country’s image. After examining all sides we will consider whether Siemens will work in Bangladesh or not.”

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