"This issue of foreign companies using bribery to get contracts has been a kind of public knowledge," says Iftekhar Zaman, the executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, the Bangladesh chapter of the Berlin based anti-corruption watchdog. "It's a failure of the companies to oblige the rules and regulations, but it's also incumbent on the government to be able to prevent those avenues of corruption."
The case against Siemens portrays a typical pattern for graft here. Between 2004 and 2006, as mobile phone use soared in Bangladesh, Siemens was pushing for a $40 million telecommunications contract with the Bangladeshi government, according to a case filed by US investigators against Siemens. To outbid its competitors, it hired a Bangladeshi consultant with links to the Prime Minister's son, as well as the telecommunicatons minister and at least four others. A payment of $180,000 was arranged and sent to Arafat Rahman's Singapore bank account, according to public statements made by Siemens as well as the case filed by Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which is tasked with investigating graft and preparing charges.
"Over a period of time, as we were investigating some of our cases, we could see that, yes, Siemens ... was paying money to some of our people here. This was all put into a bank account in Singapore, so we had to get the cooperation of that government," says Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, the chairman of the ACC.