22 July, 2024
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Being convicted by Bangladesh court, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus tries to play victim

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On January 1, 2024, a labor court in Dhaka, Bangladesh sentenced Grameen Telecom chairman and controversial Nobel Laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus and three others to six-month jail in a case filed against them for violating labor law.

Judge Sheikh Merina Sultana of Dhaka’s 3rd Labor Court pronounced the judgment in presence of all the four convicts.

The court also fined them BDT 5,000 each, to suffer 10-day jail in default under a section of the Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006. It also fined them BDT 25,000 each, to suffer 15-day behind bars in default.

“We have tried the chairman of Grameen Telecom here, not the Nobel Laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus. The charges framed against the four accused were proved beyond any reasonable doubt”, the judge said while delivering the verdict.

The three other convicts are – Grameen Telecom’s director and former managing director Md Ashraful Hasan, members of Board of Directors Nur Jahan Begum and Md Shahjahan. The court however, granted the four convicts one-month bail on condition of filing an appeal.

Earlier, on December 24, 2023 the court had fixed January 1, 2024 for pronouncing the verdict.

It may be mentioned here that, Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) Inspector Arifuzzaman filed the case on September 9, 2021. The court on June 6, 2023, framed charges in the case. A total of four prosecution witnesses including the plaintiff testified on different hearing dates.

According to the case documents, a team of the DIFE went on an inspection to the Grameen Telecom and found the violations of labor laws like not regularizing 101 staff, not establishing a welfare fund for the laborers, and not paying five percent of the company’s dividends to the workers, among others.

DIFE lawyer senior advocate Khurshid Alam Khan said they are happy with the judgment, while defense counsel Barrister Abdullah Al Mamun said they did not get justice and will go to High Court against the judgment.

Following the verdict, Bangladesh’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud said the court has convicted Grameen Bank founder Dr Muhammad Yunus and later he was granted bail for filing an appeal.

“Some people are trying to spread confusion over the issue and they are trying to make role of the government questionable”, he said

“The government is not a party here and it didn’t file the case. The workers of Grameen Telecom sued Dr Yunus as he didn’t pay dues of the workers. And he was convicted in that case”, Dr Hasan Mahmud said.

Dr Hasan, who is also the Awami League Joint General Secretary, said the Grameen Telecom has a legal obligation of distributing five percent of its profits to its employees, which has never been paid.
For this, the workers have filed a case under Sections 4, 7, 8, 117 and 234 of the Labor Act. Grameen Telecom tried to manage two labor leaders by giving bribe of BDT 60 million, but failed.

Dr Hasan said there have been allegations that the Grameen Telecom is violating norms, evading taxes, misappropriating its employees’ welfare funds and misappropriating BDT 3,000 crore from different affiliated organizations for more than a decade.

The minister said according to the Grameen Bank Ordinance 1983, the Managing Director of Grameen Bank was to be appointed by government. And according to the amendment of 1990, the responsibility of appointing the MD was transferred to the Board of Directors of Grameen Bank subject to the prior approval of Bangladesh Bank, he added.

He said the chairman of the board of directors had requested the approval of Bangladesh Bank to appoint Dr Yunus as Managing Director on August 14, 1990.

The information minister said Bangladesh Bank gave no objection to the appointment of Dr Yunus subject to conditions. And the conditions are – (1) ‘The terms and conditions of employment of the MD shall be governed by the provisions of Section 4 of the Grameen Bank Ordinance 14 of 1983. (2) The Board of Directors will make rules under section 36 of the ordinance, which will come into effect after publication in the official gazette. (3) As per government service rules, an MD cannot cross the age limit of 60 years”..
But the board of directors of Grameen Bank at its 52nd meeting in July 1999 adopted a resolution extending Muhammad Yunus’s service as the Managing Director for an unlimited period, when he was 59.

“It was a clear violation of Section 4 of Article 14 of the Grameen Bank Ordinance,” the minister said, adding that “the ulterior motive of his appointment was later proved”, the minister said.

Dr Mahmud said according to Section 21 and 12 of the Bangladesh Penal Code, the Managing Director of Grameen Bank is considered a public servant. Dr Yunus violated the terms and conditions of his employment as a public servant.

He said a full-time government employee, Dr Yunus frequent remained absent from work without any government approval.

Mahmud said money from Grameen Bank has been transferred or capitalized to many institutions associated with his family’s interests.

“Many Nobel laureates of the world were convicted of criminal and civil offences and many of them have served in jail for long”, Dr Hasan said.

He said there is no scope of spreading confusion about the court verdict against Dr Muhammad Yunus. The court in Bangladesh has worked independently, he added.

Meanwhile, following the verdict, Muhammad Yunus claimed they were being punished for a “crime they had not committed”.

“If you want to call it justice, you are free to do so”, the controversial Nobel laureate told reporters on the court premises in response to a question.

“It was in our fate, in the nation’s fate”, he added.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment, which had filed the case, said he was satisfied with the judgement, adding that the allegations against the four had been proven.

Meanwhile, taking undue advantage of this verdict, ultra-Islamist and pro-Pakistan Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its band of cyber-activists including Qatari asset and Al Jazeera reporter David Bergman has started spreading disinformation on social media accusing Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Awami League government for getting Yunus convicted. It may be mentioned here that, David Bergman entered into a four-point contract lobbyist and propagandist assignment jointly with Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami to (a) defame, debunk and demean Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Awami League by any means; (b) project BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami as the only credible alternative in Bangladesh; (c) Oppose and undermine the credibility of the International War Crimes Trials; (d) continue to mislead international media, particularly the Western media with series of disinformation and lies.

Who is David Bergman?

It may also be mentioned here that, David Bergman has teamed up with a number of anti-India and pro-Pakistan cyber activists including Pinaki Bhattacharya (who converted into Islam after joining Jamaat-e-Islami and been consistently demonizing India, Hindus, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi); Zulkarnain Saer Sami, alias Zulkarnain Saer, alias Zulkarnain Saer Khan Sami alias Tanvir Md. Sadat; and Tasneem Khalil.

According to Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC), which is one of the most comprehensive compendiums of information and analysis of terrorist groups and activities in the world, jihadist Zulkarnain Saer Khan threatened to behead a Hindu rights activist and professor Kushal Baran Chakraborty in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Indian newspaper The Afternoon Voice in a report said, when in 1986, the Bhopal disaster caused by the Union Carbide that killed 3,787 people and affected five hundred though Indians, David Bergman joined hands with the perpetrators of the heinous crime and later had emerged as the paid agent of Pakistani spy agency Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). As a result, Bergman was arrested in September 1986 for violating India’s Foreigners Act and National Security Act and was accused of working as media propagandist for Union Carbide. David Bergman married a Muslim woman who is the granddaughter of an anti-India Pakistani lawyer.

Following the January 1 conviction of Muhammad Yunus, David Bergman and his entire team has launched massive propaganda claiming – the court order was “politically motivated”. In addition to such massive spread of disinformation through social media platforms, Bergman is also making frantic bids in engaging international media outlets in favor of Muhammad Yunus, despite the fact, majority of the mainstream newspapers in the West are declining requests from Yunus to publish anything in his defense. As a result, in March 2023, Muhammed Yunus paid US$73,000 to the Washington Post for publishing a full-page advertisement praising Yunus.

Justifying publishing a full-page advertisement by spending US$73,000 in The Washington Post, Yunus wrote in his blog that The Washington Post did not publish it as a report fearing it would result in refusal of visa applications when any reporter of this newspaper wishes to visit Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, another source said, Muhammad Yunus had also hired at least two PR agencies to get the matter published in mainstream newspapers in the United States including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times etcetera. But all of such frantic bids fell flat again because none of those newspapers would publish a one-sided story.

Exposing the controversial Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus

For many decades, Muhammad Yunus succeeded in remaining in the attention of international media as well as global celebrities and leaders, by continuing self-promotion as ‘savior of poor’, ‘father of microcredit’ etc. Interestingly, quite a large number of leaders in the West, including former US First Lady Hillary Clinton remain a great admirer of Muhammad Yunus, not just because the Clinton family considers him as an angelic individual, but because Yunus has been one of the biggest donors of Clinton Foundation. While Yunus succeeded in duping almost the entire world into the intrigue web of lies and falsehood, in Bangladesh, millions of poor people are visibly bleeding being trapped into debt trap of Grameen Bank as well multiple microfinance ventures of this monstrous individual, who has been robbing-off poor with exorbitant amount of interest on the amount Yunus lends.

But none of the exposures of him being a blood-sucking lender and cause of sufferings, starvation and even death of a massive number of poor in Bangladesh – the name Muhammad Yunus stands out prominently, hailed as the pioneer of microcredit and the founder of Grameen Bank. He has been given accolades after accolades and even projected as a saintly individual.

However, lately – beneath the surface, a series of controversies have marred the reputation of Yunus, his brainchild Grameen Bank, and its affiliated organization, Grameen Telecom and Grameen Kalyan.

One of the primary accusations facing Yunus and his affiliated entities revolves around financial irregularities, including tax evasion, embezzlement, and the misappropriation of funds from various affiliate organizations. The specific case involving Grameen Telecom, where a legal obligation to share 5 percent of profits with employees went unfulfilled, resulted in a case filed under Sections 4, 7, 8, 117, and 234 of the Labor Act in Bangladesh. This highlights the serious legal implications and underscores the need for a comprehensive investigation.

The involvement of 106 Nobel Laureates, urging Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to halt legal proceedings against Yunus, adds a layer of complexity to the situation. While the laureates may argue that Yunus is being persecuted, critics maintain that this international support ignores the constitutional limits and may inadvertently undermine the rule of law.

Bangladesh government committee’s findings in 2011, revealing rule breaches and fund misuse, further stress the importance of an unbiased examination of the allegations.

Another significant point of contention arises from the alleged manipulation of Grameen Bank’s ownership structure. Originally, members owned 60 percent of the shares, with the government holding the remaining 40 percent. However, investigations indicate that a 1986 amendment shifted the balance, giving 75 percent of the shares to the members and only 25 percent to the government. This apparent violation of Section 7 of the Grameen Ordinance raises questions about the transparency and legality of such changes.

Legal experts in Bangladesh argue that the increase in paid-up capital by Grameen Bank lacks proper authorization. According to them, the power to increase paid-up capital rests solely with the government, and any unilateral action by the bank may constitute a breach of the law. The absence of documented evidence showcasing government authorization for the increase raises concerns about the adherence to legal procedures within Grameen Bank.

The process surrounding the appointment of Muhammad Yunus as the Managing Director of Grameen Bank has also come under intense scrutiny. While the initial appointment by the government followed due processes, subsequent amendments shifted the responsibility to the Board of Directors. However, discrepancies in Yunus’s appointment, including exceeding the age limit set by government employment rules, cast doubt on the legitimacy of his tenure. The violation of service rules, particularly the alleged absence of reapproval from Bangladesh Bank, adds another layer to the controversy.

Yunus’s classification as a public servant, as defined by the Bangladesh Penal Code, adds a legal dimension to the controversies. The 2011 review committee identified several breaches of service terms, including frequent absence, unauthorized foreign travel, and the acceptance of funds without proper permissions. The alleged concealment of Yunus’s position while establishing affiliated ventures abroad further complicates the narrative.

True story of Sufia Begum – lies of Yunus exposed!

Yunus projected Jobra village and Sufia as example of their excellent success stories to the international audience. Through such a campaign, Yunus has attained tremendous attention from the international community. He has gained fame in the world as a ‘pioneer’ of micro credit, for which he got the Nobel Peace prize in 2006. The name of Sufia, the first borrower of loan from Yunus’s Grameen Bank, has already crossed international boundaries of many countries, as Grameen Bank proudly pronounced her name as one of the brilliant success stories of their so-called micro-credit loans. It is beyond knowledge of many that, almost one decade back, Sufia died due to extreme poverty and lack of any minimum medical treatment.

Sufia Begum was the first borrower of microcredit loan from Muhammad Yunus among the villagers of Jobra in Bangladesh. Sufia died on January 16, 1997 leaving two daughters – Nurun Nahar and Fazilatun Nahar. Sufia died in dire poverty.

Sufia Begum’s husband had died long before her death during the childhood of their daughters. He was a job-holder in a tiny local business farm. After his death Sufia became the only earning member of her family. She used to deal in vegetables. Sufia somehow managed to arrange the marriage of her daughters after her husband had died. Even after marriage both the daughters were living besides Sufia’s homestead. They became separated from her mother’s family though they had a reciprocal relationship regarding earning and sharing livelihood.

Sufia’s daughters have been living in the east corner of the village adjacent to a mosque. There are three separate houses, two of those are of two sons’ of Fazilatun Nahar’s and the other is of younger daughter Nurun Nahar’s son.

Sufia Begum took a loan from Grameen Bank more than 25 years ago. First, she took taka 60. At that time, she had to deposit one taka per day. Having paid the loan back Sufia took taka 500 and paid back. Even after that she took another taka 500 and paid in irregular installments. But she never got back her deposit from Grameen Bank. At that time, dealing in vegetable and food grains was not enough to bear her livelihood. So, she was dependent upon the incomes of her daughters’ families. At that period due to the economic hardship and the pressure of loan from Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank, Sufia’s elder daughter lost her mental balance.

Now both the daughters have been living in the same place besides Sufia’s homestead with their children and grandchildren. Both of them and their children are so poor that they could not take any loan from either Grameen Bank or any other NGOs.

Sufia’s elder daughter Fazilatun Nahar has two sons. Fazilatun Nahar’s husband left her and got married again. Both of her sons are rickshaw-pullers and are married. Now they have been living with their wives, children and mother in two tiny straw-roofed huts.

A few months before the younger one was unemployed; a wealthy neighbor gave him a rickshaw on the condition to gradually pay the price back. Fazilatun Nahar is yet to get back her mental balance. She gets furious when she confronts outsiders from the village and starts deploring about the harms of the loan. Even she scolds the journalists, television crews who frequently visit her house.

The younger daughter of Sufia Begum – Nurun Nahar has two sons and one daughter. Her husband also left her for a long time. All of her children but one is married though the daughter’s husband has left her with a child. All of them have been living as one family. Nurun Nahar’s elder son is also a rickshaw-puller and the only earning member of the family. All of them have been living in a small hut. Though it needs to be repaired, their family cannot afford it due to poverty. During the rainy season water falls down from the roof and makes it difficult for them to dwell in the hut.

Nurun Nahar told Danish investigative journalist Tom Heinemann that after receiving the Nobel Prize when Yunus visited Jobra village, Grameen Bank had forced the locals to collect money for buying flower bouquets for Yunus. At that time, Muhammad Yunus, in presence of the villagers, had promised to provide financial assistance to Sufia Begum’s family so that they could build a new house. But this was just a false promise. Instead of helping Sufia Begum’s family in repairing their broken hut, a propaganda team of the shrewd Muhammad Yunus sent journalists from France, China, Germany and few more countries to Jobra village and film an adjacent building and claim it to be owned by Sufia Begum. In reality – the building belongs to an expatriate named Jabel Hussain who lives in Dubai.

The controversies surrounding Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank, and Grameen Telecom present a tangled web of financial, legal, and ethical issues. While media and international support may cast Yunus as a victim, the evidence suggests a more nuanced reality. The intertwining of financial irregularities, ownership structure manipulation, and appointment controversies demands a thorough and impartial investigation. As these allegations continue to capture global attention, the need for accountability and adherence to legal processes remains paramount to ensure justice prevails over influential affiliations and international support.

According to media reports, a court in Bangladesh has sentenced the Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus to six months in jail for violating the country’s labor laws. Following the verdict, Yunus told reporters, “As my lawyers have convincingly argued in court, this verdict against me is contrary to all legal precedent and logic. I call for the Bangladeshi people to speak in one voice against injustice and in favor of democracy and human rights for each and every one of our citizens”.

Here again, Yunus has resorted to his old habit of falsehood and most possibly onwards he will take advantage of coverage in the international media by misleading them through his PR team. In this case, if journalists in the world are to follow the ethics of this noble profession, they need to first investigate the dark actions of Yunus. And in that case, instead of defending this man, they will accuse him for deceiving millions of poor women in Bangladesh for decades.

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