Rejoinder (19 June, 2017)
Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in a statement made in Sweden on 15 June at Stockholm City Conference Centre while addressing a reception accorded to her by expatriate Bangladeshis, made a number of accusations and allegations against Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus including his alleged role “in stopping the World Bank fund for Padma Bridge project, instigating Ms Hilary Clinton to phone her after losing his Managing Director post from Grameen Bank, stealing money from Grameen Bank, not paying taxes," among others.
These false accusations and allegations have been made before and have also been responded to before. Now we are obliged to respond again.
Here are the questions raised by the Honourable Prime Minister and our responses.
PM: “Now things are becoming clear gradually- it is being clear how much money he (Yunus) didn't pay as tax.”
YC: Professor Yunus, as stated on many occasions before, does not have any outstanding tax claims or pending tax payments. We have repeated on a number of occasions that Professor Yunus pays all of his taxes fully and in due time. All relevant information regarding his earnings and taxes are in the possession of the tax authorities.
The government suspected that Professor Yunus may have undisclosed sources of income which he has kept in undeclared accounts in banks. The nation was told through press announcement that the government is making a world-wide and nation-wide search for his and his wife's allegedly undeclared accounts. Every single branch of all banks in the country was made to report whether they had any bank account of Professor Yunus and his wife. The government does not appear to have found anything through this search. At least they have not told the nation that they have found anything.
Several years back, Honorable Prime Minister ordered in a cabinet meeting to scrutinize Professor Yunus’ tax records thoroughly and report the findings immediately. Such news was released to the press several times since then. Government has re-examined his tax records multiple times. So far Professor Yunus has not been informed that there is anything wrong with his tax returns. They only imposed new taxes on some declared items with retrospective effect interpreting a tax law in a different way than had been done over many years in the past. Professor Yunus contested this new interpretation in the court. This matter is now a sub-judice issue. Matters related to income tax are supposed to be a confidential matter between the tax authorities and the tax payer. Disclosure of such information is punishable by law. The Government is not only sharing this information with the national press, it is also doing so in an offensive way. Most regrettable part of it is that the head of the government herself has been spreading these false disclosures with impunity.
GIST: To say Professor Yunus is a tax dodger is false.
PM: “Dr. Yunus removed Grameen Bank's money, poor people's money while working as MD and made 40/50 companies in his own name.”
YC: This is a very shocking accusation. It is difficult to believe that Professor Yunus transferred all these money from Grameen Bank over all these years, and that the Central Bank with all its annual inspections and audits and many more monitoring visits could never detect it. Even after the Honorable Prime Minister announced this terrifying information the Central Bank has not yet mentioned this in any of their subsequent annual inspection reports. By making these unsubstantiated claims, Honorable Prime Minister is hurting the social standing of an innocent citizen.
PM: Professor Yunus owns 40/50 companies.
YC: Professor Yunus does not own any company anywhere in the world. He does not even own any share in any company anywhere in the world.
One simple step can prove Professor Yunus' claim to be untrue -- to come up with the name of at least one company which he owns. If this cannot be done then to say "he owns 40/50 companies" will be a total disregard to the truth.
GIST: To establish that Professor Yunus has stolen money from Grameen Bank to set up his personally owned companies will require evidence. Honorable PM does not appear to care to provide any evidence whatsoever.
PM: “I gave Grameen Phone business to him. It was in our agreement that profits from the phone will go to the poor through Grameen Bank. Not even that happened. He embezzled the money for himself."
YC: Again no evidence is provided, no embezzlement case ever initiated against Professor Yunus. But the accusations continue. Telecom license was never given to Professor Yunus or any individual. So the question of Professor Yunus selling it off does not arise. Professor Yunus could not sell something which he never owned. Grameen Bank never owned any share of GrameenPhone either. So the question of selling the Grameen Bank's share does not arise. It was a wise decision of the government of the time to give license to GrameenPhone. Today it is the largest telecom company in the country, and it is the only company of which nearly half of the shares are owned by Bangladeshis. Its shares are available for public to buy any time. Other telecom licenses given at the same time are all entirely sold out to foreign companies.
GIST: The entire accusation of embezzlement by Professor Yunus from GrameenPhone is a falsehood created to disrepute a distinguished citizen of the country. This story has nothing to do with reality.
PM: “Why had he been so greedy for the position of MD even after becoming a Nobel Laureate? He violated the rules of GB and stayed as MD for almost 10 years. He was told to leave the post. Our Finance Minister and Gowher Rizvi himself told him. He did not pay heed and filed a case instead.”
YC: Professor Yunus was never “greedy” to hold on to Managing Director’s position. Every time he offered to step down, the Board members insisted that he stays on. In 1990, the government’s ownership in Grameen Bank was reduced from 60% to 25%, and the ownership of the borrowers was raised from 40% to 75%.Under the amended ordinance the authority of appointing the Managing Director was vested to the board of directors with prior approval from Bangladesh Bank. All the control of the bank was given to the board. No government control was kept except for the appointment of three members of the board out of 13, including the Chairman. Grameen Bank was not required to follow government service rules. Bangladesh Bank was given the authority to approve the appointment of the Managing Director made by bank’s Board, as in other privately owned banks. Bangladesh Bank approved the appointment of Professor Yunus. The issue of retirement age was raised and he was asked to retire on May 12, 2011. It was never raised by Bangladesh Bank before that. Professor Muhammad Yunus decided to resign from the position of Managing Director of Grameen Bank on the same day. At this point a writ petition was submitted to the High Court. The court refused to accept the petition for hearing on the ground that he did not have locus standi, meaning that he was not eligible for submitting the petition. He appealed to the Appellate Division but his appeal was refused on the same ground.
GIST: Professor Yunus did not violate any rule of Grameen Bank.
PM: "He (Yunus) made Hillary Clinton to call me on the issue."
YC: Professor Yunus did not “make” Ms Hillary Clinton call the Honorable Prime Minister. If Ms Hillary Clinton did in fact call the Honorable PM she may have done so of her own accord. Many other world leaders expressed their concern about the fate of Grameen Bank by making phone calls, writing letters, making joint statements in globally admired newspapers, sending personal emissaries, and through one on one discussions with the PM. Ms Hillary Clinton, if she did call the Prime Minister, would not have been the only one.
GIST: Professor Yunus did not “make” Ms Hillary Clinton call the Honorable Prime Minister. If Ms Hillary Clinton did in fact call the Honorable PM she may have done so on her own.
PM: "He (Yunus) put his investments abroad, sent money abroad. How did he give that money to the Clinton Foundation? Now all these are being questioned."
YC: Professor Yunus does not send money from Bangladesh to outside world for investments. He brings his foreign earnings home. He brought big investors like Telenor to Bangladesh. He brought big name companies for joint ventures in Bangladesh such as Intel Corporation, Danone, Veolia, Uniqlo, BASF, Euglena and other companies.
There was no allegation anywhere that Professor Yunus has personally donated money to the Clinton Foundation or to Ms Hillary Clinton’s campaign fund. These are fabricated by some local papers. An allegation was raised in the USA that Yunus linked organizations donated money to Ms Hillary Clinton’s family foundation in exchange for an opportunity to meet her -- making up a ridiculous story. Later to make it a little credible, the story was readjusted to say Professor Yunus received official favours in terms of receiving millions of dollars of US tax-payers’ money as donations from state department.
There are dozens of Yunus-inspired NGOs around the world working to promote the work and philosophy of Professor Yunus. Two of them are very well-known US NGOs. They are Grameen Foundation, based in Washington DC and Grameen America, based in NY. Another NGO is in Germany known as Yunus SocialBusiness, based in Frankfurt. Besides receiving money from many donors they have received fund from USAID by going through USAIDs regular stringent processing. It would be inconceivable to think Yunus inspired NGOs got funding because Professor Yunus 'donated' a small amount to Clinton Foundation.
President of Grameen America, Mr Vidar Jorgensen, a wealthy US business man, paid $20,000 per year as fee to attend Clinton Foundation event called Clinton Global Initiative. He believed CGI is a good place to meet potential donors for his organization Grameen America which required continuous flow of funds to reach out to more poor women with microcredit. By the end of this year Grameen America will have given out a total of one billion dollars as micro loans to poor women in 12 US cities.
GIST: Professor Yunus or Yunus-inspired NGOs never donated any money to Clinton Global Initiative. He always attended CGI as a speaker, and was not required to pay any fee.
PM: "World Bank was stopped from giving money to Padma Bridge Project, and accused us of corruption. There is no doubt that their hands were behind all this.”
YC: Professor Yunus has never made any statement privately or publicly to anyone about the possibility of corruption in the Padma Bridge project at any time. We condemn the false and baseless accusation against Professor Yunus. On the contrary, Professor Yunus made repeated statements beginning as early as in 2011 that he supports the Padma Bridge project, stating that it is the dream of millions of people of Bangladesh, and would never stand in the way of its realization. He has repeated this on many occasions including as recently as January 28, 2017 when Honorable Prime Minister accused him on the floor of the Parliament. He did not help to “create corruption allegations” against the government. These are fabricated stories repeated endlessly in the hope of making them credible.
GIST: Professor Yunus did not “create corruption allegations” against the government. He has always supported the Padma Bridge project as the bridge would benefit of millions of people of Bangladesh.
A letter recently sent by Senator Grassley to Secretary of State Mr Rex Tillerson again raised this question about Professor Yunus’ donations to Clinton Foundation.
The letter from Senator Grassley, Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, to Secretary of State Mr Rex Tillerson, is being presented in the press as a senate judiciary committee investigation. This is not correct. US senators are entitled to ask any question to the executive branch of the government at any time. They exercise this power routinely whenever their electorates or supporters approach them for such information. Such a letter does not constitute an investigation which is a serious process. This has to be debated in the committee which has to come up with a resolution to start the process of investigation and define what they will be investigating. Usually it is a time consuming process. Senator Grassley's letter does not trigger the process.
However, if the Senate decided to begin an investigation, Yunus Centre would welcome it. Through such investigation the truth would emerge. Professor Yunus has become a target of false propaganda. When truth emerges, there will be no further place for falsehood.
GIST: Senator Grassley's letter does not constitute an investigation. If an investigation is put in the process Yunus Centre would welcome it as it would bring out the truth.