Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Satellite tender 3: Family links raise further questions




The Bangladesh government has in the last few days launched the country's first satellite, named Bangabandhu-1. 

Back in May 2012, I wrote a series of three articles for the Bangladesh daily newspaper, The New Age about how the whole process started with serious irregularities in the tender process that resulted in a small US company receiving a $10 million consultancy contract when it did not meet the most basic tender requirements.  

Since the newspaper's website before 2016 is no longer online, I am publishing the articles again . Below is the third of the three reports, published on May 17, 2012. The links to the first two are here: US bid winner doesn't meet minimum tender requirements and BTRC manipulates space satellite tender to advantage small US Company


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Bangabandhu space satellite tender III 

Family links raise further questions about tender 
David Bergman
A key member of the small US company that won in contentious circumstances a $10 million consultancy contract to assist the government in the launch of the Bangladesh satellite Bangubandhu 1 is related through marriage to an Awami League minister. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Khaleda Zia corruption conviction: Meritorious or Malicious?


What should one make of the prosecution and conviction of Khaleda Zia, the leader of Bangladesh's main opposition party for offences involving alleged embezzlement of around Tk 21 million ($252,000)?

Khaleda Zia, was convicted in February 2018, and is currently in jail serving a five year sentence of imprisonment. In March, the High Court granted her bail pending an appeal, but this order was stayed by the Appellate Division which ruled that it would consider her bail application in a hearing on May 8. This court has now heard arguments and a much delayed decision will be given by the Appellate court on Wednesday.

Is there any merit in the case against her or is this just about malicious politics, to remove her from involvement in the elections as Lord Carlile, a member of her legal team (recently refused entry into Bangladesh) believes? 


Satellite tender 2: BRTC manipulates tender evaluation

The Bangladesh government has in the last few days launched the country's first satellite, named Bangabandhu-1.

Back in May 2012, I wrote a series of three articles for the Bangladesh daily newspaper, The New Age about how the whole process started with serious irregularities in the tender process that resulted in a small US company receiving a $10 million consultancy contract when it did not meet the most basic tender requirements. 


Since the newspaper's website before 2016 is no longer online, I am publishing the articles again. Below is the second of the three reports, published on May 17, 2012. The links to the first article is here: US bid winner doesn't meet tender requirements. The final article is available here: Family links raise further questions about tender

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Bangabandhu Sapece Satellite Tender-II 
BTRC manipulates evaluation to advantage small US Company

David Bergman 
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission manipulated the results of a technical evaluation of tender proposal involving five international companies each of whom were bidding to assist the government in the launch of the country’s first space satellite to ensure that a small US company won the contract. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Satellite tender 1: US bid winner not meet tender requirements

The Bangladesh government has in the last few days launched the country's first satellite, named Bangabandhu-1. 

Back in May 2012, I wrote a series of three articles for the Bangladesh daily newspaper, The New Age about how the whole process started with serious irregularities in the tender process that resulted in a small US company receiving a $10 million consultancy contract when it did not meet the most basic tender requirements.  

Since the newspaper's website before 2016 is no longer online, I am publishing the articles again here. Below is the first of the three reports, published on May 17, 2012. Here are links to the second article BTRC manipulates evaluation to advantage small US Company and the third article, Family links raise further questions about tender
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Bangabandhu Space Satellite Tender -1
US bid winner doesn't meet minimum tender requirements 
David Bergman 
The small US company that won a $10 million consultancy contract to assist in the launch of Bangladesh’s first space satellite, Bangabandhu-1, beating some of the largest satellite companies in the world, failed to meet a number of minimum requirements that should have prevented it from even participating in the tender, New Age can reveal. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Government preventing Lord Carlile from entering Bangladesh



Lord Carlile, a member of Khaleda Zia's legal
team prevented from entering Bangladesh
You may have read my recent report for Al Jazeera on the view of Lord Carlile QC, a new member of the Bangladesh opposition leader's legal team, about the conviction of Khaleda Zia, for embezzlement. If not, you can read it here. 

In summary, he said, that following a review of the relevant documents he had "not seen any evidence whatsoever that could justify prosecuting Begum Khaleda Zia, let alone convicting her"

Many people, quite understandably, will say that as a member of the defence team, the QC "would say that wouldn't he." 

That is of course a fair point. When I asked Lord Carlile exactly that, he claimed he was not saying this simply because he was part of Khaleda Zia’s legal team.
“When I was asked to look at case I made it clear to people involved that I would look at it in any normal way as any conscientious barrister would look at the case, and had there been sufficient evidence in this case, I would have so advised.”
I shall be writing more about the case tomorrow.

However, one notable point to make is that, the Bangladesh government is - at present - preventing Carlile from entering the country to attend Khaleda Zia's appellate court hearing on 8 May. When I interviewed him on Thursday, he said that he had applied to the Bangladesh High Commission a couple of weeks earlier and personally attended the Commission. He said that he received

"a number of e-mails from a first secretary at the High Commission asking me questions that were completely irrelevant to my application – asking me if I had a license or permission from various entities in Bangladesh to do what I am intending to do – but all that I am intending to do is give private advice to a private client, and every Bangladesh citizen can get advice form any lawyer anywhere in world they like and of course they often do as there is so much trade between Bangladesh and the UK so it is inevitable that Bangladesh entities are getting commercial law advice on this. This has been pointed out to the First Secretary and has not been disagreed with and he has been provided with all information that he needs."
He went onto say that
"I have not been refused a visa but the [Bangladesh High Commission] know perfectly well that I want to be there on 7 May so I can be present in court on 8th and they are playing for time. ... I have not had a refusal, not had an acceptance, just this correspondence dance taking place."
This is of course not the first time that the current Bangladesh government has stopped foreign lawyers from entering the country. In 2011, it stopped Toby Cadman, who was representing a number of leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami who were on trial for international crimes allegedly committed during the country's 1971 independence war and a year later, the government is reported to have stopped Joe Cyr, a US lawyer from Hogal Lovell, who was representing BNP opposition leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury at the time being prosecuted for similar offences.

It should be noted when Sheikh Hasina was in custody during the two years emergency period 2007-9, she instructed two lawyers - a Canadian lawyer, Prof Payam Akhavan and the UK lawyer Cherie Blair -who were both allowed to enter Bangladesh, to attend court hearings and hold press conferences.*

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* updated with information on Joe Cyr and Cherie Blair


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hasina, the ODI and human rights in Bangladesh

Is the reputable, and supposedly independent, Overseas Development Institute helping the Bangladesh government to enforce here in London the draconian restrictions that journalists experience in Bangladesh?

And is it, in light of how ODI dealt with a question from a Channel Four News journalist at the meeting itself, protecting the prime minister from having to respond to tough questions?

It certainly appears so.


ODI Vetting?
When I applied a week ago to attend the ODI event at which Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladesh Prime Minister, was due to speak. I got a very welcoming response. from Ben Tritton, the event organiser. "We'd be delighted to welcome you to ODI" he said. 

So I was rather astonished to receive an e-mail on Monday morning, the day before the talk, disinviting me from the event.
"Apologies but over the weekend we have received a large number of high level responses and this event is highly over-subscribed. We will therefore be unfortunately not able to welcome you to the event"
This seemed rather odd and I therefore immediately responded with this e-mail
"Could you please clarify whether you have allowed the Bangladesh delegation/government/representatives to vet the list of those who can attend the talk."
I received no response. 

On Tuesday, the morning of the talk, I called Mr Tritton and asked him why I had been disinvited. He kept me holding for about a minute and then repeated what he has written in his e-mail. I asked him how many people, like me, had been disinvited and he said 15 people

I then asked him the same question I had earlier e-mailed - about whether he allowed the Bangladesh government or representatives to vet the list of those who could attend the talk. If the ODI had not allowed vetting, one would have expected the answer to be a direct "No." Indeed one would have expected an independent think-tank to immediately respond in this way. However, he said:
"I am afraid I cant comment at all on that"
This is as close to a confirmation as you will ever get without the ODI saying "yes". If they hadn't allowed the Bangladesh government an ability to vet the invite list, the ODI would surely have just denied it.

In Bangladesh, media censorship has become increasingly restrictive. The government refuse to allow journalists from certain independent newspapers to attend government press conferences; the military intelligence agency has ordered large companies not to advertise in two major newspaper's reducing their advertising income by over one third; the prime minister has denounced a newspaper editor for publishing stories that were seeking to "destroy the country.” Government party activists have filed dozens of criminal cases against the same newspaper editor; dozens of journalists and editors have been arrested under the vague and arbitrary Information, Communication, Technology and Communication Act; and there is a high degree of censorship and - rather obviously - self-censorship. Televsion is particularly controlled.

The ODI must know about all this so why would it participate in apparently allowing the Bangladesh government to dictate who could and could not come to the meeting?

Channel Four News*
In addition, of course, and more significantly, the ODI did everything to prevent Channel Four News to ask a difficult question to Sheikh Hasina about human rights issues in Bangladesh. 







Saturday, February 10, 2018

Boris Johnson and British man secretly detained in Bangladesh

When late last year, the UK foreign minister Boris Johnson visited Iran, a country at the centre of various military conflicts and diplomatic controversies, the only issue that concerned the British media was his conversations with the Iranian government about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a british-Iranian woman convicted on trumped up charges of plotting to “topple the regime”.

The dual British-Iranian national, initially detained in April 2016 as she sought to return with her daughter back to london following a family holiday, is now languishing in a Tehran jail after she was sentenced for five years.

Boris Johnson arrived in Bangladesh on Friday, but it looks like that the release of a British-Bangladeshi man who was picked up by law enforcement authorities in July 2016, and has been secretly detained ever since, was not on his agenda.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Tulip Siddiq, her mother and links to the Awami League


Tulip Siddiq in parliament
The failure of Tulip Siddiq, the West Hampstead and Kilburn labour Member of parliament, to help seek the release of those secretly detained and disappeared in Bangladesh, a country ruled by her family members, including her Aunt, the prime minister, has resulted in sharp criticism from her normally loyal local newspaper.

In a by-lined article in the December 2017 edition of the Ham and High, the editor states that a Channel Four News program, “raises questions as to exactly how deep her political involvement with her family really goes” and that the MP appears to have “misled” her and her readers in claiming that she has no political contact with her Aunt, the prime minister of Bangladesh.