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Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Denmark withholds Bangladesh aid
Dhaka street children
Bangladesh has long been a victim of corruption
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By Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

The Danish Government has publicly accused the Bangladeshi shipping minister of being corrupt.

It has withdrawn $45m in aid from the Bangladeshi shipping sector, accusing the minister, Akbar Hossain, of behaving dishonestly in his ministry's attempts to offer a tender for the repair of four ferries.

The decision by the Danish Government to withdraw the aid is highly embarrassing for the Bangladeshi Government and the shipping minister.

The four party coalition of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia came to power last year, pledging to reduce corruption.

But the Danes have, in an unprecedented step, personally accused the shipping minister of behaving dishonestly.

They say that the corruption took place at a high level in his ministry, and relates to kickbacks for the repair of four ferries provided to Bangladesh by Denmark.

Accusations denied

A spokesman for the Danish foreign ministry said the dishonest behaviour of Mr Hossain would be reported to the Bangladeshi prime minister.

Sheikh Hasina
Several politicians have been accused of corruption
He said that Denmark had an obligation to its taxpayers to ensure that money was properly spent in Bangladesh, and that other Danish funding in the country might also be withdrawn.

The Danes have also taken the unusual step of publicly criticising the Bangladeshi Government, accusing it of failing to take any serious initiatives to tackle corruption during the first six months in office.

But Mr Hossain has strenuously denied the accusations.

He said it was the Danes who were at fault, because they had insisted that the tender process for the repair of the boats should not be open and transparent.

He urged both countries to settle their differences, which, he said, were the result of a misunderstanding.

Mr Hossain is due to hold a press conference on Monday, in which he will further defend himself against the Danish allegations.

See also:

08 Jan 02 | South Asia
More politicians charged in Bangladesh
30 Dec 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh corruption targeted
11 Dec 01 | South Asia
Former Bangladesh PM charged
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