DHAKA: Bangladesh's cabinet Thursday ordered a new probe into Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus which will check for irregularities during his time as head of microfinance pioneer Grameen Bank, an official said.
The 72-year-old “banker to the poor” was forced from the institution last year, due to what his supporters say is a government vendetta against him.
A separate review of the bank has been underway since May this year.
Yunus, who fell out with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after talking about going into politics, was officially fired for exceeding the mandatory retirement age of 60. He challenged the move in the Supreme Court, but lost.
“The investigation will cover the period of beyond that mandatory retirement age and see whether the facilities he enjoyed during that period were lawful,” the government's cabinet secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said.
It will investigate in particular “if he enjoyed any tax exemption when he brought foreign currency home during his tenure as the managing director”, he said.
The findings of the investigation by the Bank and Financial Institution Department and the National Board of Revenue are to be handed to the cabinet within the shortest possible time, he added.
Yunus, who won his 2006 Nobel Prize for pioneering the microfinance system in which small loans are made to poor entrepreneurs, is seen as one of the world's leading anti-poverty activists and has many powerful foreign supporters.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a personal friend, heaped praise on Yunus during a visit to Dhaka in May and urged Hasina's government to maintain “an environment where civil society groups operate freely”.
The same month Yunus expressed fears that the bank he founded to put his concept of microfinance into practice would be taken over by the Bangladesh government.