Grameen Bank's Yunus 'stole' $100 mn

Muhammad Yunus

Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has been accused of stashing some USD 100 million originally for microcredit operations of his Grameen Bank to his another venture in 1996, breaching agreements with donors and violating the country's financial rules.

Norwegian National Television aired a documentary earlier today alleging that Yunus drew off nearly Tk 7 billion (USD 100 million) in aid for poor borrowers of Grameen Bank to another company, BDNews24 news agency reported.

It said the media investigation titled "Fanget I Mikrogjeld" or "Caught in Micro debt" showed Yunus transferred the money to Grameen Kalyan, a voluntary healthcare programme of poor, "which was in no way involved with microcredit operations".

70-year-old Yunus, whose experiment of poor men's banking earned Bangladesh the repute of being the home of microcredit, was immediately unavailable for comments as he is on a tour abroad but a Grameen Bank spokeswoman said they were preparing a statement to negate the report.

The documentary quoted Prof Jonathan Morduch of New York University saying that Grameen Bank received USD 175 million in subsidies through Norwegian aid agency Norad for offering tiny loans to ultra poor people.

"When the Norway embassy, Norwegian aid agency Norad and the Economic Relations Division in Bangladesh demanded that he return the money to Grameen Bank, the microcredit guru gave back less than some Tk 2 billion (USD 30 million) of the 100 million. The remainder remained with Grameen Kalyan," the report said.

The report, however, acknowledged that the money was transferred under an agreement between Grameen Bank and Grameen Kalyan in 1996.

Director of the film Tom Heinemann said he failed to speak to Yunus for comments despite his repeated attempts while the microcredit guru in his desperate effort to conceal the anomaly from being made public wrote a personal letter on April 1, 1998 to the then CEO of the Norwegian aid agency.

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