US Committee on Judiciary opens probe into Hillary's links to Yunus to sway Hasina

The US Senate Committee on the Judiciary has opened an investigation to find out whether former secretary of state Hillary Clinton used her position to intervene in an “independent investigation” against Muhammad Yunus by a “sovereign government” in Bangladesh.

Nurul Islam
Published : 3 June 2017, 10:56 AM
Updated : 3 June 2017, 04:41 PM

Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the committee, in a letter also asked the State Department to make former deputy chief of mission of the US Embassy in Dhaka Jon Danilowicz available for an interview with the committee staff.

Grassley wrote the letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on June 1, asking the State Department to provide some information by June 15. He posted the letter on his website.

The allegations of “special treatment” for Yunus include reports of a threatened IRS audit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son Sajeeb Wazed living in the US, if he did not help quash the investigation of the “businessman and Clinton organisation donor, Dr Muhammad Yunus”.

“If the secretary of state used her position to intervene in an independent investigation by a sovereign government simply because of a personal and financial relationship stemming from the Clinton Foundation rather than the legitimate foreign policy interests of the United States, then that would be unacceptable,” Grassley wrote.

“Co-mingling her official position as secretary of state with her family foundation would be similarly inappropriate."

“It is vital to determine whether the State Department had any role in the threat of an IRS audit against the son of the prime minister in retaliation for this investigation,” Grassley said in the letter.

Grassley wrote that emails show that State Department officials, including Clinton, and staff for the Clinton Foundation closely monitored an attempt to remove Yunus from his bank position in Bangladesh and that the US ambassador to Bangladesh sought meetings with the prime minister “to apply pressure in an attempt to end the investigation into Yunus".

The prime minister’s son said he was pressed multiple times by State Department officials to help end the investigation and that at one point, he was told “he may be audited by the IRS if he failed to use his influence to get his mother to drop the investigation into Yunus".

Yunus was removed from Grameen Bank as its managing director on the grounds that he had crossed the official age limit in 2011, with the allegation of his siphoning off the bank’s fund in the backdrop.

He then challenged his dismissal in the Supreme Court but lost and has been at loggerheads with the Hasina administration since.

Hasina said on several occasions that she had come under international pressure after the ouster of Yunus.

Emails released from her time as secretary of state later revealed that Yunus desperately solicited Hillary Clinton’s help for ending his feud with the Hasina government over the control of the bank.

Senator Grassley asked for details of whether any State Department official directly or indirectly suggested an IRS audit over the Bangladeshi investigation, whether the matter has been referred to the State Department inspector general or Justice Department for review, and for unredacted copies of all State Department emails attached to his letter.

He also asked the State Department to make Jon Danilowicz available for an interview with the committee staff for his alleged mention of the IRS audit over a failure to intervene in the Yunus case to Sajeeb Wazed.

According to the son of the prime minister, the letter said, he had a number of interactions with high-level State Department officials from 2010-2012. He recalled that in almost every meeting the Yunus investigation would inevitably come up and that he faced pressure to end the investigation.

Some of the individuals he met with include former ambassadors in Dhaka James Moriarty and Dan Mozena, Deputy Chief of Mission Danilowicz and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

Sajeeb Wazed recounted two conversations with Danilowicz, during which Danilowicz mentioned that Wazed may be audited by the IRS if he failed to use his influence to get his mother to drop the investigation into Yunus.

He also said that, according to the Grassley’s letter, sometimes officials from the State Department were “apologetic” when repeatedly delivering the message concerning Yunus, and made clear that they were just acting as messengers from the highest levels of the State Department.

“Furthermore, he was told by these same officials that Yunus was communicating with Secretary Clinton and her staff for assistance and, in turn, Secretary Clinton’s staff put pressure on the embassy in Bangladesh to intercede on Yunus’ behalf”.

The Grameen Bank founder, who shared the 2006 Nobel Peace prize with the bank, is close to the Clinton family for a long time. The personal relationship stems from when Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas.

According to the letter, for decades, Yunus has been heralded by the Clinton Foundation and has been showcased at a number of foundation functions.

 “Bill Clinton also personally lobbied the Nobel Committee on behalf of Yunus, and in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."

According to reports, Yunus’ companies donated between $100,000 to $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative and $25,000 to $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Upon Clinton’s appointment as secretary of state, the Clinton-Yunus relationship deepened.

Secretary Clinton’s Department of State reportedly awarded more than $13 million in taxpayer funds to businesses aligned with Yunus.

This year on May 11, Prime Minister Hasina confirmed that Clinton called her office in March 2011 and demanded that Yunus be restored to his position of managing director of Grameen Bank.

 “This new evidence of pay-to-play and special treatment reinforces the appearance that donations to the Clinton Foundation resulted in favourable treatment by Secretary Clinton’s State Department,” the senator wrote in the letter.

 “As I wrote in my August 2016 letter to Department of Justice, federal law requires that executive branch employees be disqualified from matters that have a direct and predictable effect on the employee’s own financial interests or the financial interests of those persons or organisations with which the employee is affiliated, such as those of a spouse, unless the employee first obtains an individual waiver or a regulatory exemption applies,” he wrote to the Secretary of State Tillerson.

 “Once again, Secretary Clinton’s actions have raised reasonable suspicions that she violated these rules and undermined the public’s confidence in the integrity of the State Department.”