DHAKA: Bangladesh has blacklisted China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) ltd. for offering bribes to Government officials and would not get any contracts in the future.
Similarly, Bangladesh Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith said that the will investigate ongoing projects where the Chinese company is involved.
The company had previously got the contract for the expansion of the Dhaka-Sylhet Highway.
Queried on whether CHEC will be able to do other works in Bangladesh in the future, he replied, “No, No. They can’t.”
Regarding other projects the company is already involved in, the Finance Minister said, “Let’s see what can be done. A normal rule is blacklisted means blacklisted.”
The company had offered some 5 million to the company offered bribes to Government officials to get the contractor to increase the amount for work, he said.
He said: “[The expansion of] Dhaka-Sylhet highway, somehow, we had to drop it. Because, the party who got the contract, they came up, in the very beginning, with an offer of a bribe, an open bribe. So, we gave them money, which they gave to some of our officials, back to the Chinese Embassy and naturally blacklisted the company.”
The Government decided to fund the expansion work of the 226 km Dhaka-Sylhet road to a four-lane highway on its own, Muhith added.
Bangladesh and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding during the Chinese President’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016. Under the deal, China had promised to give soft loans of $21.5 billion for 26 projects, including the Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane highway project.
China also selected China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd. for the project and asked Bangladesh to sign a commercial contract with the company.
Soon, the negotiation process started between the company and the Roads and Highways Department (RHD), Finance Ministry sources said.
Bangladesh estimated Tk 100,000 million as the cost of the project but China Harbor demanded near about Tk 200,000 million, they said.
The Bangladesh Government planned to sign loan agreements for eight of the 26 projects with China’s Exim Bank within 2017. This project was one of them; but the loan agreement for it was not signed, sources added.
Earlier, the Government on 9 October 2016, signed a primary deal with China Harbour. RHD Chief Engineer Ibne Alam Hasan and the company’s Vice-President Tang Qiaoliang signed the agreement at a hotel in Dhaka.
“They [China Harbour and their local agents] are smart and well-connected. They can easily reach a minister or an influential figure in the Government in a bid to get contracts,” said the owner of one of the country’s largest construction firms, requesting anonymity.
On 8 December 2016, China Harbour and another Chinese company entered into preliminary agreements with Bangladesh to develop three components of Payra seaport with $510 million.
On 21 September that year, the Cabinet Committee again selected China Harbour for implementation of another project, which includes the construction of a marine drive and a 160km four-lane expressway and land reclamation from Sitakunda to Cox’s Bazar.