'Microloan' banker who won Nobel Prize faces tax probe
Published 08/01/2011 | 05:00
NOBEL Prize winner Mohammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi banker acclaimed for lifting women out of poverty through "microloans", is facing a government investigation over tax evasion.
The inquiries follow claims in a television documentary that his bank had re-routed aid money from the Norwegian government to avoid paying tax.
The allegations have been seized upon by the country's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, and Mr Yunus and his Grameen Bank will now face an investigation.
Mr Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for giving more than €7.8bn in "microloans" to more than eight million people, 97pc of them women.
But critics say its interest rates of around 20pc are too high, and that repayment pressures force some borrowers further into debt with loan sharks.
Sheikh Hasina has referred to microlending as "usury" and Islamic leaders oppose the bank's goal of "empowering women", claiming that it leads to increased promiscuity.
The probe will focus on claims that €21.5m given in Norwegian aid in 1996 was paid into the account of Grameen's sister company, Grameen Kalyan, which in turn lent funds back to Grameen Bank.
Last month, Norway's international development minister, Erik Solheim, commissioned an inquiry into the allegations and later declared Grameen was not guilty of any wrongdoing.
"According to the report, there is no indication that Norwegian funds have been used for unintended purposes, or that Grameen Bank has engaged in corrupt practices or embezzled funds," he said.
Grameen Bank has dismissed the allegations as a "fabrication" and said its transfer of money to Grameen Kalyan had been carried out in good faith to better help the poor. (© Daily Telegraph, London)