Mohammad Yunus
In this photograph taken on March 6, 2011, Bangladesh microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus (C) emerges from The High Court in Dhaka, to contest the decision to remove him from his post in The Grameen Bank. - Photo by AFP

DHAKA: Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed Nobel-winning Muhammad Yunus's final appeal against a central bank order sacking him from the microfinance bank he founded, Yunus's lawyer told AFP.

“The appeal has been dismissed by the Supreme Court,” Tamin Husain Shawan said, adding that the decision, made by the full seven-member Supreme Court bench of judges, was unanimous.

The central bank, which is nominally independent from the government, removed Yunus on March 2 on the grounds that he had failed to seek its approval when he was reappointed indefinitely in 1999.

The High Court upheld this order in a March 8 ruling, with judge Muhammad Mamtaj Uddin Ahmed saying that the central bank's sacking order was legal and that Yunus had also exceeded Grameen Bank's mandatory retirement age of 60.

Backed by a high-profile international lobby group, Yunus, 70, has defied the sacking order by returning to work at Grameen Bank's headquarters and launching a legal battle to keep control of his organisation.

Supporters say he has been victimised by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who he crossed in 2007 when he set up a political party during a period of military rule.

In December, following the release of a Norwegian TV documentary critical of Yunus, Prime Minister Hasina accused him of “sucking blood from the poor”and pulling a financial “trick” to avoid paying tax.

Having exhausted his personal legal options, Yunus's only hope now resides in a separate legal case lodged by nine Grameen Bank board members in the Supreme Court that also seeks his reinstatement.

The case may be heard on Wednesday at the Supreme Court, lawyers said, but few observers expect it to be successful.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said Yunus's legal battle was now over.

“The Supreme Court today has upheld the verdict of the High Court,” Alam told AFP after the hearing.

He told the court earlier that Yunus was occupying the post of managing director “illegally”.

“He was a regular employee at Grameen Bank, where the retirement age is 60. He had passed this limit,” Alam told the court.

As well as being sacked, Yunus has been vilified in the Bangladeshi press and summoned to court three times in cases nominally connected to Grameen. The bank has become the target of a government probe.

Analysts say Grameen's huge influence in Bangladesh and its move into solar panels, mobile phones and other consumer goods has triggered the government's envy.

His sacking has sparked street protests in Bangladesh and widespread condemnation from overseas, with the US government warning earlier this month that bilateral ties would be affected if an amicable resolution was not found.

Grameen Bank, which is 25 per cent state-owned and employs 24,000 people, provides credit to eight million borrowers, the vast majority of them women living in rural villages.

Its work has been copied in developing countries around the world. – AFP