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US to help Bangladesh seize bribe money

DHAKA, Jan 12 – The United States will help Bangladesh recover 200 million dollars of kickbacks paid by foreign companies to a group including the son of a former prime minister, officials in Dhaka said Monday.

The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made the assurance on a weekend visit to Bangladesh, the country’s new law minister Shafiq Ahmed told AFP.

"A dozen influential people including several ministers of the past Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led government took some 200 million dollars in kickbacks," he said.

"The United States have said they have identified the places where the money has been siphoned off. We are now working together to recover the money."

The chief prosecutor of the Anti Corruption Commission, Syed Anisul Haq, told AFP that ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s younger son Arafat Rahman Koko, 36, was among those accused.

Zia’s BNP led the government in 2001-2006 before an army-backed regime took over and detained the ex-premier, her two sons and most members of her cabinet on charges of corruption.

She insisted that Koko be freed as a precondition for her participation in last month’s elections, allowing him to fly to Thailand where he is undergoing treatment for asthma and heart problems.

The BNP was crushed in the vote, and analysts say graft charges linked to Zia’s government played a role in the party’s worst result in its history.

Haq said US officials have traced 20 million dollars allegedly taken by Koko from foreign companies including from German industrial giant Siemens and Hong Kong-based China Harbour Engineering.

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A US embassy spokesman confirmed the collaboration with Bangladesh authorities.


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