Nobel laureate Yunus got Hillary Clinton to stop WB funding for Padma Bridge, says Hasina

Muhammad Yunus used his connections with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to block World Bank funding for Padma Bridge, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said.

Published : 25 Jan 2017, 03:31 PM
Updated : 25 Jan 2017, 07:11 PM

The subject of Grameen Bank's former managing director and withdrawal of $1.2 billion funds from the bridge project came up in her address to Parliament on Wednesday.

She also blamed the editor of a Dhaka-based news daily for lobbying to shut funding for Bangladesh's largest infrastructure project.

"He (Yunus) and the editor of a renowned newspaper in our country went to meet the World Bank president.

"The World Bank stopped funding Padma Bridge after all of them including America's foreign secretary Hillary Clinton lobbied for it," she said in response to question posed by Jatiya Party MP AKM Mayeedul Islam.

The government began the project's work with own funds after the global lender cited suspected corruption before pulling out of the project in 2011.

Before that, Bangladesh Bank stripped Nobel peace laureate Yunus, founder and managing director of Grameen Bank, of the post he held for 35 years for passing the age limit.

He went to court but lost the legal battle.

"We didn’t remove him (Yunus). He lost the case in court," said Hasina.

"Dr Kamal Hossain and his daughter had advised him to start the case. But he lost. He lost his MD post because of the law. Then he became angry with us. Padma Bridge fell prey to his wrath."

Leaders of the ruling Awami League have been vocal against Yunus, accusing him of conspiring against the government. They have been showing as evidence Hillary's leaked emails which mention the Grameen Bank.

But Yunus has denied such allegations.

The leaked emails stirred trouble for Hillary during the 2016 presidential race and the democratic candidate eventually lost to Republican Donald Trump.

Hasina said she got a call from Hillary over Yunus. "He has powerful lobbies. He has all these people. So much money spent …. calls came from various places … and with those, requests."

"America's Hillary Clinton called me and asked why I removed him from the MD post. I told her: ‘We were not removing him He filed a case and lost it. There is nothing we can do here’."

"The big matter here is that court did not ask him to give back money for his additional 10 years."

'Yunus a cheat'

Speaking at the question-answer session, an angry Hasina went on to describe Nobel laureate as a 'cheat'.

"This lobbying that he that time he obtained the Grameenphone licence from me. Ask him. Did he even offer me a cup of tea for the licence? On the contrary, it was I who invited him to my office, offered him tea and gave him business," a miffed prime minister said.

Responding to a demand by Jatiya Party leader Maidul Islam to launch a government probe into the 'vast assets' of Prof Yunus, the prime  minister said the Grameen bank was running according to his whims because of the 'faith' that people have in him.

"According to banking laws, a person can remain an MD until the age of 60, but he was MD even when he was past 70.

"For this reason the finance minister and my foreign affairs adviser went to him on our behalf. They said, 'you cannot remain MD as per law. We shall honour you as the adviser emeritus. You please relinquish the post.' But he went to court and sued the government and the Bangladesh Bank," she said.

"He quit the post for legal reasons but the entire blame fell on me. I had nothing to do here," Hasina explained.

After he lost the post, the interest rates for the bank was lowered from 40 to 27 percent to ensure the bank continued to do well, she said.

According to her, weekly deduction of interests that had been a practice with the bank has been discontinued.

She alleged that even after the 1998 floods the bank had taken away the tin roofs from those who owed the bank.

"We told him (Yunus) even then, please do not go after interests. We helped the bank with Tk 8 billion."

Prime Minister Hasina said in 1996 when her government came to power, Yunus floated the idea of a mobile-phone company the income from which he proposed would help the bank.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher