In a significant development, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) granted approval on Monday, January 29th, 2024, for a charge sheet against Nobel Laureate and Grameen Telecom Chairman Prof Muhammad Yunus along with 13 others, though the accused group was initially 13 including Dr. Yunus. The charge sheet pertains to allegations of misappropriating over Tk 25 crore from the company’s Workers Welfare Fund and engaging in money laundering.
The Anti-Corruption Commission’s approval for a charge sheet against Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus and 13 others underscores the imperative of transparency and accountability, irrespective of one’s stature, reinforcing the principle that justice must prevail without exception
You can also read: Why Dr. Yunus Nerves of Legal-Court and Seeks International Favor?
The commission, during its regular meeting on Monday, authorized the submission of the charge sheet, as informed by ACC Secretary Mahbub Hossain at the ACC headquarters in Dhaka. He further stated that subsequent to the approval, the ACC would proceed to submit the charge sheet to the court for further proceedings.
On May 30th, 2023, ACC Deputy Director Md Gulshan Anwar initiated the case at its Dhaka-1 integrated district office, accusing Yunus and 12 others of embezzling Tk 25 crore from the company’s Workers Welfare Fund and engaging in money laundering.
Accused in the Charge Sheet
The 14 individuals named in the charge sheet:
- Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Chairman of Grameen Telecom
- Md. Nazmul Islam, Managing Director of Grameen Telecom
- Md. Ashraful Hassan, Former Managing Director
- Parveen Mahmud, Director
- Nazneen Sultana, Director
- Md. Shahjahan, Director
- Nurjahan Begum, Director
- Professor S.M. Huzzatul Islam Latifee, Director
- Advocate Md. Yusuf Ali
- Advocate Zafrul Hasan Sharif
- Md. Kamruzzaman, President of Grameen Telecom Sramik-Karmachari Union
- Firoz Mahmud Hasan, General Secretary of Grameen Telecom Sramik-Karmachari Union
- Md. Kamrul Hasan, Office Secretary of Sramik-Karmachari Union
- Md. Mainul Islam, Representative of Sramik-Karmachari Union
Embezzlement Case Uncovered
Following the case statement, it was revealed that despite the decision being made at the company’s 108th board meeting chaired by Dr. Yunus on May 9, 2022, to open a bank account at the Gulshan branch of Dhaka Bank Limited, the account had already been opened before the decision.
A total of over Taka 260 million (26 crores) had been transferred to the account through various means, purportedly based on ‘fake settlement agreements’ and board decisions. However, before distributing the company’s profit shares to the workers, an amount close to Taka 250 million (25 crores) was unlawfully siphoned off by the accused individuals acting in collusion. Only Tk 1 crore had genuinely been allocated as advocate fees from the owed dividends to Grameen Telecom employees. Consequently, the ACC has approved charges against 14 individuals, including accused Grameen Telecom chairman Professor Dr. Muhammad
Yunus, under Section 409/420/467/468/471/109 of the Penal Code and Section 4(2) and 4(3) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2012.
Major Charges Against Yunus At A Glance
- The case was initiated following an ACC investigation that substantiated accusations of embezzlement and money laundering against the defendant. Yunus stands accused of embezzling over Tk 25 crore and 22 lakhs from workers through ’embezzlement and money laundering’ schemes. The defendant presented evidence of a settlement agreement outside of court, documented on May 9, 2022. Additionally, the case highlighted concerns regarding the transfer of workers’ dues to the bank accounts of several union leaders without their prior knowledge before dividend distribution.
- The allegations against Grameen Telecom encompass several critical issues, including the misappropriation of five percent of the dividend designated for employee distribution due to irregularities, the unauthorized deduction of six percent labeled as lawyer’s fees and other expenses when disbursing employee dues, and the transfer of a total of Tk 2,977 crores from Grameen Telecom to various subsidiary bank accounts for money laundering and embezzlement, totaling Tk 45 crores, 52 lakhs, 13 thousand, and 643, including interest allocated to the workers’ welfare fund.
- Dr. Yunus, an economist, donated a sum of Tk 76 crores, 73 lakhs, 34 thousand to three institutions known as Yunus Trust, Yunus Family Trust, and Yunus Center Trust. The Deputy Commissioner of Taxes imposed a total tax of Tk 15 crores, 39 lakhs, 16 thousand, and 800 during the three fiscal years from 2011 to 2013.
- Grameen Telecom, under Yunus’s oversight, filed misleading annual returns with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC), falsely asserting in their annual return that no dividends had been distributed by the company, despite substantial sums being transferred to Grameen Kalyan over the years. Such a false statement in the annual return constitutes a violation punishable under Section 397 of the Companies Act, 1994.
- The consequences of Grameen Telecom transferring its dividends to Grameen Kalyan include forfeiting its non-profit status under Section 28 of the Companies Act, potentially leading to the cancellation of its license under Section 28. The Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC) holds the authority to revoke this license under the law.
The unfolding of this case serves as a reminder of the utmost importance of transparency and accountability.
Yunus Case Highlights Accountability
However, a significant development occurred on January 1, 2024, when Dr. Muhammad Yunus, alongside Grameen Telecom CEO Md Ashraful Hassan, Managing Director M Shahjahan, and Trustee Nurjahan Begum, received a six-month jail sentence from a Dhaka court for violations of labor laws.
The verdict, delivered by Dhaka Labor Court 3 Judge Sheikh Marina Sultana on Monday, January 1, 2024, at 2:15 PM, imposed fines of Tk5,000 and Tk25,000 under different sections. Following separate petitions, bail was granted, with the court allowing one month to file an appeal in the High Court to challenge the ruling.
The case, which concluded arguments on December 24, involved Dr. Yunus facing more than 100 charges related to labor law breaches and alleged corruption. These charges arose from the observation of various violations during an inspection at Grameen Telecom, including the failure to grant permanent positions to 101 workers, establish workers’ participation and welfare funds, and allocate 5% of the company’s dividend to workers.
These cases underscore the critical importance of transparency and accountability in financial matters, particularly within influential organizations. It serves as a reminder that no one, regardless of their prominence, is above the law, underscoring the imperative for a thorough investigation of corruption allegations. The resounding message is that everyone is subject to the law’s equal treatment, with no exemptions granted.
International Criticism: Legal Proceedings and Support
Among the charges, in the two major cases, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus was compelled to pay Tk12.28 crore in taxes to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) of Bangladesh after a protracted legal battle, with the final verdict rendered by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in July 2023. Reluctant though he was, he ultimately acquiesced, a testament to what some perceive as his questionable character.
The second major case pertains to the Grameen Telecom court case, wherein Dr. Yunus, along with a dozen others, stands accused of misappropriating Rs 252.2 million from the Workers’ Profit Participation Fund of Grameen Telecom. This case highlights a disparity between Dr. Yunus’s public image and the allegations against him.
While these legal proceedings followed the framework of Bangladesh’s legal system, some of Dr. Yunus’s international allies, lacking a nuanced understanding of Bangladesh’s legal intricacies, have voiced criticisms. Nevertheless, Dr. Yunus has managed to garner support from them, leading to a recent appeal from twelve US senators to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, urging an end to what they perceive as persistent harassment and legal manipulation targeting Dr. Yunus and other government critics.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, US Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, along with other signatories including Todd Young, Tim Kaine, Dan Sullivan, Jeff Merkley, Jeanne Shaheen, Ed Markey, Sherrod Brown, Peter Welch, Sheldon Whitehouse, Ron Wyden, and Cory Booker, called for an end to what they described as a pattern of using laws and the justice system to suppress dissent.
The approval of a charge sheet against Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and others by the Anti-Corruption Commission marks a significant development in Bangladesh’s legal landscape. This underlines the imperative of transparency and accountability, irrespective of one’s stature, reinforcing the principle that justice must prevail without exception.