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
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine