Grameen Telecom boss and Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus has defended himself in court in a case tied to the violation of labour laws, saying he has not “committed any crime”.
Responding to a question on Thursday, he said: “I’m not the owner of this organisation. My idealistic programme had no flaws.”
“Some mistakes might happen while doing such a huge task. We are not angels. But if something wrong happened, it was not intentional.”
He arrived at the Department of Labour in Dhaka around noon on Thursday and had to use the staircase to reach the court on the fifth floor of the building as the lift has been out of service for several months.
The hearing commenced around 1pm. The judge permitted Yunus to sit but he stood up once the hearing started. The defence submitted a 28-page statement.
The others named in the case are Grameen Telecom Managing Director Ashraful Hasan and directors Nurjahan Begum and Md Shahjahan. They pleaded not guilty in court.
In the written statement, the accused said Yunus forged more than 50 social organisations, including Grameen Bank, in the country, and he owns no shares himself in any of those companies. So, he does not get any share of the profits these organisations make.
Yunus constructed business models for whichever social issues related to poverty, education and health in the country, according to the statement.
“He [Yunus] spent a lot of time behind such business ideas and models but never engaged in proprietorship in any of it. He does not even have land, houses or cars under his name in this country or abroad,” it added.
The defence challenged authorities to name one other person or organisation with “the impact” Yunus had created and “human resources” he assembled.
The statement also referred to the Company Act to elaborate why the case was not valid and pleaded for the acquittal of the accused.
Yunus did not say a word in the hour-long hearing and later spoke to reporters at the court premises.
Judge Shaikh Merina Sultana of Dhaka’s Third Labour Court set Nov 16 for presenting argument in the case as per the Labour Act.
Lawyer Abdullah Al Mamun represented Yunus during the hearing on Thursday, while advocate Khurshid Alam Khan of the Anti-Corruption Commission represented the state.
On Sept 9, 2021, Yunus and three others were named in a case filed against Grameen Communications with a labour court by Labour Inspector Arifuzzaman of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments.
All four people named in the case have testified. The plaintiff and first witness in the case testified on Oct 1. The fourth witness in the case testified on Nov 6.
The charges against them include failure to provide employees with appointment letters, to get work schedules approved by the authorities, and to submit annual and half-yearly returns.