Nobel prize-winner faces inquiry over aid money

Nobel prize-winner Muhammad Yunus's Grameen Bank is being investigated in Bangladesh, as the "banker to the poor" and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina clash yet again.

Last month, the bank, globally celebrated for revolutionising the world of microfinance and making credit available to millions of impoverished people, was accused in a Norwegian documentary film of getting tax benefits in the 1990s by moving around millions of dollars from Norway between different entities of the bank. After an inquiry by the authorities in Oslo, Grameen and its 70-year-old economist founder were cleared.

At the time, the Grameen Bank said the aid money was transferred for tax purposes to increase funds available to microborrowers and was loaned back to Grameen Bank the same day.

Norway's Minister for International Development, Erik Solheim, said: "There is no indication that Norwegian funds have been used for unintended purposes or corrupt practices."

The documentary's claims were based on letters that Danish filmmaker Tom Heinemann discovered in aid agency Norad's archives in Oslo.

But Sheikh Hasina's government has appointed a five-member panel to push ahead with its own investigation. The panel, headed by a professor of economics from Dhaka University, AKM Monowaruddin Ahmed, is to report back in three months. "The investigation is not to malign any individual or agency but to clarify the confusion and dig out the truth," a finance ministry official told reporters in Dhaka.

Some observers believe the inquiry may be the result of bad blood between the Prime Minister and Mr Yunus that dates back at least to 2007 when the economist made comments about the need to reform politics and considered launching his own party, Nagorik Shakti, or Citizens Power, a move he eventually decided not to pursue.

Last week, the Prime Minister, once a vocal supporter of the sort of credit schemes developed by Mr Yunus, accused him of pulling a "trick" to avoid paying taxes, adding: "[Micro-financiers are] sucking blood from the poor in the name of poverty alleviation." She has also accused Mr Yunus of running the bank like a private fiefdom.

Some reports suggest the authorities in Bangladesh would like to increase their stake in the Grameen Bank. According to Bangladeshi law, the government is supposed to hold a 25 per cent stake. But, because borrowers have been paying so much money in, the share of the government has fallen to less than 3.5 per cent. Claims that the government wants to change the law to ensure a larger stake in the bank were recently dismissed by the Finance Minister, Abul Maal Abdul Mhith.

Microfinance faces global controversy: many believe the scheme initially designed to benefit the poor has become a multibillion for-profit industry. In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, the industry has been accused of exploitation and illegal actions, and blamed for dozens of suicides of borrowers.

Mr Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006, has insisted neither he nor the bank committed any offence. Nurjhan Begum, deputy chief of Grameen Bank, told the Agence France-Presse that the banker welcomed the investigation as a chance to clear his and the bank's name.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'