Courtesy of Bengladesh Bridge Authority
Padma Bridge, at center of alleged bidding scandal, would be the largest bridge in southeast Asia when completed in 2014.

Canada’s national police force is continuing its probe into alleged corrupt bidding practices by employees of SNC- Lavalin, Montreal, in connection with the $2.9-billion Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh.

Acting on a referral by the World Bank, which is believed to be providing $1.2 billion of the project funding, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) executed search warrants at the company's offices in September. A police spokesman confirms the investigation but won't disclose why it was launched, what offices were searched or if more than one office was involved.

“We don’t comment on ongoing investigations,” says RCMP spokesman Marc Menard.

The World Bank says it had contacted the RCMP over the allegations. “We commend the [RCMP] for its robust response to the World Bank referral and look forward to the outcome of its investigation,” the agency says in a statement.

In a second statement, the bank points out that its vice president for southern Asia, whose name was not disclosed, expressed concerns about the investigation when she recently met with the Bangladesh prime minister.

“We are not elaborating on [the statements],” says David Theis, spokesman for the bank's external-affairs section.

“We are assisting the RCMP in an investigation by supplying details for a project in Bangladesh in which they have requested our collaboration,” says Leslie Quinton, SNC-Lavalin’s vice president of communications in a statement. “We are complying fully with their requests and are conducting our own internal review at the same time.”

The company had prepared a proposal to the owner, the Bengladesh Bridge Authority, as part of a team that would serve in a contractor management capacity, but "SNC-Lavalin did not submit a bid," says Quinton.

Quinton says SNC-Lavalin has a zero tolerance policy towards unethical behavior and insists that its employees respect local laws as well as the company’s own code of ethics, but she declined further comment, citing the investigation.

The Padma Multipurpose Bridge, located 40 kilometers southwest of Dhaka and designed to be 6.1 km long and 25 meters wide, will cross the Padma River to connect Bangladesh’s southwest region with the capital city. The project includes major river-draining works, 12 km of approach roads and bridge-end facilities such as toll plazas, service areas and offices.

Construction of the bridge, with four traffic lanes and a rail line, has been set for completion in 2014.