Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus in a statement on Wednesday refuted the allegations raised against him by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina over influencing the World Bank to block funding for the mega project.
In response to the allegations, it has to be said again that professor Yunus has never made any complaint to the World Bank or any other organisation or individual about the Padma Bridge, Yunus’ office Yunus Centre said in the statement, terming the matter ‘purely imaginary.’
‘I congratulate the prime minister and all the people of the country for this historic achievement,’ the statement quoted Yunus as saying.
The Yunus Centre statement quoted the 2006 Nobel peace laureate emphatically saying that Padma Bridge had been a long-time dream of all the people of Bangladesh, including himself.
‘There was no question of his opposing the realisation of this dream,’ the statement reads.
The Yunus Centre statement mentioned a ‘series of serious allegations’ made by the prime minister against the Nobel laureate in the bridge opening ceremony and other occasions.
Yunus refuted the allegation that he desperately wanted to remain as managing director of the Grameen Bank until he was 70-71.
‘First thing to clarify is that Grameen Bank is such a bank that is owned (75 per cent) by its borrowers. Grameen Bank was established by incorporating some unique features through a separate law, which makes it different from other public and private banks,’ the statement said.
‘Managing director of Grameen Bank is appointed under a contract with conditions set by the board. There was no age limit mentioned for this appointment in the law or in the decision of the board of directors,’ the statement clarified.
The statement noted that Yunus exceeded 60 years of age during the first tenure of the Awami League government in 2001. But the government never raised the issue of his age at that time. Bangladesh Bank also never raised the issue at any later time.
About the allegation of calling Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair’s wife Cherie, it said the removal of Yunus from Grameen Bank was global news, not because he wanted to hold on to his post of managing director, but because it was so unbelievable to the large community of admirers and followers of Grameen philosophy and action programmes around the world.
‘They were very puzzled by this action and expressed their concerns in various ways. They were not trying to help professor Yunus get back his job, they wanted to see that the Grameen programmes to continue without interruption. It only showed how much Grameen was viewed by many as a hope for the poor,’ the statement said.
Yunus Centre shared the clarification with the media in a statement. It said:
Grameen Bank is one of the banks whose MD was Dr Yunus. Legally, he could remain MD till the age of 60. However, he remained MD illegally until he was 70-71 years old. Naturally, Bangladesh Bank gave him notice without meaning any insult to him. Our former finance minister Muhith Saheb and adviser Gowher Rizvi Saheb suggested to him that you become an advisor to Grameen Bank. We will honour you as Emeritus Advisor. But he wanted desperately wanted to remain MD. Now, as an MD of the bank, he has to take GO (permission from government) when he goes out, but he never took the GO On the contrary, we had given him many more opportunities.
The first thing to clarify is that Grameen Bank is such a bank that is owned (75%) by its borrowers. Grameen Bank was established by incorporating some unique features through a separate law, which makes it different from other public and private banks. The managing director of Grameen Bank is appointed under a contract with conditions set by the board. There was no age limit mentioned for this appointment in the law or in the decision of the board of directors.
When Prof Yunus reached 60 years of age, he voluntarily reported to the board that the board may consider appointing a new managing director since he has reached 60 years of age. The board wanted him to continue until it decides otherwise. Board reappointed Prof Yunus when his current term was over. He was 61 years and six months old at that time. Grameen Bank explained the matter to Bangladesh Bank in one of its regular inspection reports given by Bangladesh Bank. As a result, no further observation was made in the next report of Bangladesh Bank.
Speaking of GO, he never had to take GO for traveling abroad because he was not a government employee. The government never raised any objection in this regard.
When this issue was raised in 2011 and Prof Yunus was asked to step down from his position of managing director it threatened the fundamentals of the legal status of the bank which Prof Yunus built with the support from successive governments run by all major parties.
Prof Yunus wanted to get the legal status upheld by the High Court. In order to get the legal vetting, he submitted a writ petition to the high court. It was not about his desperation to protect his job as managing director, which the prime minister repeatedly mentions as the cause of Yunus becoming hostile to her.
It was about the threat to the legal status of the bank that Prof Yunus was concerned about. Because he always believed that this legal space, he had created with the support from all previous governments is fundamental to the success of Grameen Bank as an effective tool to fight poverty.
As for his job, he offered to resign several times before, once when he reached 60 years. The Grameen Bank board wanted him to continue.
In 2010, Prof Yunus had already written to the finance minister AMA Muhith to start the process of succession by looking for a successor managing director since time had come for him to leave the position of the managing director.
That letter was published at that time in all newspapers when the prime minister accused him for holding on to his position of managing director of a bank.
It is to be noted that Prof Yunus exceeded 60 years of age during the first tenure of the Awami League Government in 2001. But the government never raised the issue of Prof Yunus’s age at that time. Bangladesh Bank also never raised the issue at any later time.
Prof Yunus wanted to get the legal status upheld by the High court. He submitted a writ petition to the high court. It was not about keeping his job as managing director.
The court refused to accept the petition for hearing on the ground that Prof Yunus did not have “Locus Standi”, which means he was not eligible to submit the petition. He appealed to the Appellate Division but his appeal was refused on the same ground.
Prof Yunus decided to resign from the position of managing director of Grameen Bank on May 12, 2011.
When the dismissal order from Bangladesh Bank came, Prof Yunus filed a case against Bangladesh Bank and our government. But he lost every case because the law could not cover him, the law could not reduce his age. The court could not reduce his age.
He lost and became angrier. He said: “I made Hillary Clinton call me; Tony Blair's wife Cherie Blair called me; then one representative for the French President came; everyone (said) Yunus must remain MD. Honorable Speaker, I ask the nation, what was the attraction of the MD position of a bank that I would not have worked without it?”
He received the Nobel Prize. So, he asked why the Nobel Prize winner is so greedy for the post of MD? I think everyone should think about that. And for the World Bank to stop the money, sending repeated emails, meeting Hillary, sending emails again in between this one of our editors was very well involved with him. So, the thing is, is there any patriotism in them?
The removal of Prof Yunus from Grameen Bank was a global news, not because Prof Yunus wanted to hold on to his post of managing director, but because it was so unbelievable to the large community of admirers and followers of Grameen philosophy and action programs around the world. They were very puzzled by this action and expressed their concerns in various ways. They were not trying to help Prof Yunus get back his job, they wanted to see that the Grameen programs continue without interruption. It only showed how much Grameen was viewed by many as a hope for the poor.
The global shock created by the removal of Prof Yunus from the position of managing director of Grameen Bank is an independent story unfolding at the same time when the World Bank was warning to stop Padma Bridge funding because of corruption.
Mixing these two independent stories into one story took it to a different path. The honourable prime minister is saying that the World Bank money was stopped because Prof Yunus was desperate to have his job back and that he conspired with Hillary Clinton to put pressure on the World Bank.
Prof Yunus made a clear statement when it was mentioned for the first time that Prof Yunus brought pressure on the World Bank to stop the Padma Bridge funding. He emphatically said that Padma Bridge has been a long-time dream of all the people of Bangladesh, including himself. There is no question of his opposing the realisation of this dream.
"The people of the country are overjoyed with the completion of the Padma Bridge today. I congratulate the prime minister and all the people of the country for this historic achievement," said Prof Yunus.
This story propagates that Prof Yunus used his “enormous influence” to stop the financing for Padma Bridge because he was holding a grudge against the prime minister, that maybe Prof Yunus did not pressurize the World Bank directly, but he did so through his friend Hillary Clinton.
In other words, he must have some sort of connection with World Bank’s cancellation of the agreement. PM also mentions that one editor of a famous newspaper went all the way to meet the President of the World Bank to persuade him to stop the financing. The tough world of international decision-making does not depend on the whims of two friends or the visit of a newspaper editor. However ‘important’ a person Professor Yunus may be, whatever number of ‘influential friends’ he may have, a three-billion dollar project cannot be stopped just because he allegedly wants it cancelled.
In response to the allegations, it has to be said again that Prof Yunus has never made any complaint to the World Bank or any other organization or individual about the Padma Bridge. So the matter is purely imaginary.
Despite so many opportunities given to him, he takes 47% interest from poor people
This comment is not correct at all. Grameen Bank’s interest on business loans has always been 20%, which is a declining simple interest.
This rate was never increased on any occasion. It should be mentioned here that the highest interest rate of microfinance allowed by the Microcredit Regulatory Authority is 27%. Grameen Bank has always disbursed its loans at rates lower than the rate determined by the government. Interest rates of Grameen loans other than business loans are much lower.
Grameen charges 8% interest on house building loans, 0% interest on education loans for borrowers’ children during their studies and 5% after completion of studies, and 0% interest on loans to the destitute. The interest rate was never 47% in Grameen Bank and not even today.
Besides, profit on the interest income of any bank is shared with its owners. Ownership of Grameen Bank rests 25% with government and 75% with the bank’s poor members. That is why both government and members receive their respective profits on a regular basis. Prof Yunus does not own a single share with the bank. So he had no opportunity to deceive anybody by charging 47% interest!
The same microcredit policy is being followed even after the removal of Prof Yunus from Grameen Bank, thus the allegation is baseless.
He has eaten all the money from the Grameen Bank. Otherwise, how can a managing director of a bank own so much money? How could he invest so much at home and abroad?
Prof Yunus has not “eaten” Grameen Bank’s money. Beyond his salary package as MD of Grameen Bank, he has not received any money from Grameen Bank. He never took any money for international travel in all his years with the Bank. The claim that he took money to invest at home and abroad is completely false.
The current government ordered investigations on his bank accounts throughout the country. The news of the orders was widely publicised in the media. His tax returns have been investigated many times with public announcements. We never heard that any authority found anything irregular. One reviewcCommittee and one inquiry commission were appointed dedicatedly to investigate the affairs of Grameen Bank. They worked hard to find faults with it. None have reported that Prof Yunus has “eaten” any money from Grameen Bank.
Bangladesh Bank regularly audits all accounts and financial matters of Grameen Bank. It has never reported that Prof Yunus has taken away any money from the bank.
Prof Yunus submits his tax returns and pays his taxes regularly.
Sources of his income:
There are three sources of Prof Yunus' income: 1) Speaking fees from the lectures he gives at various conferences around the world. He is one of the highly prized speakers in the global speaking circuit. This source of his income accounts for bulk of his income. 2) Royalties from his books published in over 25 languages. Some of his books have been included in the New York Times bestsellers list, 3) Income from fixed deposits generated from items 1 and 2.
Sources of each receipt under items 1 and 2 are made available to tax authorities. So the question of not knowing the source of his income does not arise.
He remits all his earnings from lectures and books back to Bangladesh through formal banking channels. All details are given by the banks and they are submitted to the tax authorities. To claim that sources of his income are not known to the government is not true. Prof Yunus keeps his money in fixed deposits in the bank. He has never invested in stocks and shares. He does not own any share in any company anywhere in the world.
There are many governments, corporates, businesses, social activist organizations and persons who are inspired by the philosophy and action programs of Prof Yunus around the world.
They took initiatives to create social businesses around the world. Many of them identify themselves with “Yunus” or “Grameen” names to display their commitment to Professor Yunus’s philosophy and business structure. While the use of these names in their businesses signifies the commitment of the entrepreneurs to Yunus’s philosophy, they do not in any way represent ownership by Yunus or Grameen. Their businesses are established under the law of the country.
Their financing is done by the initiators according to their plans. Professor Yunus never participates in any businesses anywhere as an investor. Some of these businesses have grown into multi-billion-dollar businesses. They let the world know about their successes with pride and express their gratitude to Bangladesh to help them find ways to solve their social problems.
Prof Yunus spreads his philosophy, not his money. He has said many times before that he doesn’t own any share in any company anywhere in the world, he has no investment anywhere in the world.
And how could he donate $300,000 dollars to the Clinton Foundation? Whose money was that? How did he donate? No one was looking into it!
Prof Yunus has not made any donation of any size at any time to Clinton Foundation.
And when he took Grameenphone, he said that the dividend from Grameenphone will go to Grameen Bank and the bank will run with that (dividend). If (you) investigate, you will find that he has never paid a single taka of Grameenphone to Grameen Bank.
There was no such commitment on behalf of GrameenPhone to pay dividends to Grameen Bank. Grameen Bank was not a party in this joint venture.
The lead partner in this joint venture of Grameenphone is the Norwegian company, Telenor, which is owned by the Norwegian government.
The second owner of Grameenphone is Grameen Telecom which is a non-profit company registered under section 28 of the Company’s Act which has no private owner. Grameen Bank and Grameen Telecom are two separate legal entities. Grameenphone is a publicly listed company.
Grameen Telecom borrowed money from Soros Foundation to invest in Grameenphone.
Prof Yunus never intended to, nor actually owned, any share of Grameenphone at any stage of the company, nor does he own any share now.
Grameen Telecom operated the Village Pay Phone program to give poor women entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell phone services in the village. Grameen Telecom is the pioneer in the whole world in bringing telephone services to the poor, to the women in particular, and to the villages for the first time in telecom history of the world. Hundreds of thousands of women made a good income from the Village Phone Program.
Because of the significance of this programme, it has been recognized as the milestone in the history of technology. Grameen Telecom’s Village Phone Programme is on display in the Glasgow Museum of Technology. As a nation, we can take pride in having a place in the museum of technology. Because of the path-breaking work of Grameenphone, telephone services became available even to the bottommost people.
When we came up with the digital system. Telecommunications, before all were analogue and I gave the mobile phone business to the private sector, he was also given a mobile phone business. The other two that we gave were not given many opportunities but we did give the opportunity to use railway optic fiber cable for Grameenphone.
Norway gave the fibre optics to Bangladesh Railway as a grant at that time. The railway was not able to make full use of it. But it had to incur a lot of expenses for the workforce and cable maintenance. To save on its costs Railway then made a lease contract with Grameenphone. It was a commercial contract. Under this contract, all the Railway workforce engaged in the job was handed over to Grameenphone.
Grameenphone is the largest mobile phone company in the country. 25 years later, everybody will agree that the decision to give license to Grameenphone was the right decision. They really deserved it.
An Awami League leader and lawmaker recently said that Dr Muhammad Yunus donated $6 million to a foundation. Asked by the journalist whether there would be an investigation into the matter, the Honorable prime minister said you are journalists. Isn’t it better for you (the journalists) to inquire who among these managing directors has the financial capacity to donate this amount of dollars to a foundation ($6 million), or how he can spend so much money? Otherwise, if I do this, you will say that I am vindictive. Instead, it’s better if you find out. And there is also information of how much money in which bank, how much money he has laundered with which cheque—find these out, why should we say everything. You can find all of these out. Later, if you need any more information, we will provide it. In Bangladeshi banks, how can a big amount of money from a trust/foundation that he created go to a private bank (account)? Withdrawing 6 crores Bangladeshi Taka (60 million BDT) from trust through a single cheque to his personal account—how is this possible? We also run Trusts, but we don’t have any right to withdraw that money for personal use. Although I am the chairperson of the trust, I cannot withdraw the money. But I have also information that Tk6 crore has vanished after moving the amount from a Trust to a personal account. Where it has gone? This is not about a long time ago, it is about the year 2020. You (journalists) find it out, we will not say anything.
The amount of Tk6 crore or any other amount from any trust has not been deposited in the personal account of Professor Yunus in 2020, or at any other time.
He did not donate $6 million to any foundation. This is a fully fabricated and defamatory allegation. As mentioned earlier, the government has already collected information about the banking of Prof Yunus from the banks, so the government has all the information.