Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus Charged with Embezzlement in Grameen Telecom Case

Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus Charged with Embezzlement in Grameen Telecom Case

The microfinance pioneer is accused by PM Sheikh Hasina of ‘sucking blood’ from the poor, but supporters say charges politically motivated.

Dr. Muhammad Yunus

In a significant development, Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has submitted charge sheets against Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus and 13 others in a case related to the alleged embezzlement of Tk 252 million of Grameen Telecom employees’ profits. The charge sheets were submitted by Gulshan Anwar, deputy director of the ACC, and the investigating officer of the case, on Thursday.

Aminul Islam, assistant director of ACC (prosecution), confirmed that the charge sheets were submitted, following the approval of the commission on January 29. The accused include Grameen Telecom Managing Director Nazmul Islam, Directors Ashraful Hassan, Naznin Sultana, Parvin Mahmud, M Shahjahan, Nurjahan Begum, and SM Huzzatul Islam Latifee, Sramik-Karmachari Union President Kamruzzaman, General Secretary Firoz Mahmud Hasan, and representative Mainul Islam, Jatiya Sramik Federation Office Secretary Kamrul Hasan, and lawyers Zafrul Hasan Sharif and Yusuf Ali.

As per the court sources, only Parvin Mahmud is currently on bail, while the rest, including Dr. Yunus, are not granted bail.

The ACC has urged the court to issue arrest warrants against the accused without bail. Aminul Islam stated that the ACC is set to present documents within the day.

Irene Khan, former chief of Amnesty International now working as a United Nations special rapporteur told AFP the conviction was “a travesty of justice”.

The case, filed by Gulshan Anwar on May 30 last year, alleges that Dr. Muhammad Yunus and others embezzled Tk 252 million, violating the Money Laundering Prevention Act. The ACC initiated the case after receiving a report from the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, finding the allegations against the Grameen Telecom board authentic.

According to the ACC, the Grameen Telecom board, chaired by Dr. Yunus, decided in a May 9, 2022 meeting to open a bank account for sharing profits with employees. An agreement was signed on April 27, but the ACC claims that the account was opened on May 8, which it considers impossible and achieved through unfair means.

The ACC Secretary revealed that Tk 4.37 billion was transferred from the Mirpur branch of United Commercial Bank to the Gulshan branch of Dhaka Bank on May 10, 2022, as per the agreement. However, the dividends were allegedly embezzled without being disbursed to the employees.

In response, Dr. Yunus’s lawyer, Abdullah Al Mamun, asserted that Grameen Telecom negotiated with employees who had filed lawsuits demanding dividends. The negotiation led to the employees receiving an advance of Tk 250 million for lawyer expenses, with written consent provided. Mamun argued that the ACC’s case was based on the payment made during this negotiation, which they now label as embezzlement.

The controversy arose when 176 Grameen Telecom employees filed over 100 lawsuits seeking their dividends. After reaching a settlement in May 2022, the employees withdrew their lawsuits. The ACC subsequently filed a case, framing the payment as embezzlement.