Muhammad Yunus continues to face legal battles and criticism


The Bangladesh High Court has instructed Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen Telecom Trust to submit an appeal against the income tax claim for the tax years 2011 to 2013, contingent upon depositing Tk 50 crore with the National Board of Revenue (NBR). Justices Mohammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar and Sardar, in their honorable capacities, dismissed the writ application filed by Yunus and four officials of Grameen Telecom. The verdict was delivered by the High Court bench presided over by Rashid Jahangir on Monday, February 12th.

In its judgment, the court stated that Yunus should receive what is rightfully his under the law, emphasizing that no leniency would be shown in this matter.

Assistant Attorney General Barrister Tahmina informed reporters that the National Board of Revenue (NBR) issued a notice to the Grameen Kalyan Trust in November 2020, requesting income tax payment of approximately Tk 250 crore for the period spanning from 2011 to 2013.

The tax in question was initially waived on the grounds of purported insufficiency of funds in the trust. However, upon the National Board of Revenue (NBR) rejecting this claim, Yunus contested the notice and lodged a writ petition in the High Court. In a preliminary hearing of the application, the High Court issued a ruling questioning why the NBR’s notice should not be deemed ‘illegal’.

After three years of navigating through various courts, the case reached this particular bench of the High Court. Following the hearing on Monday, the court dismissed the ruling. As per the regulations, Yunus was instructed to file an appeal against the NBR’s order in the Tax Appellate Court, requiring him to deposit 25 percent of the income tax claimed in advance.

Earlier, On January 1, 2024, the labor court of Bangladesh found four officials, including the chairman of the company, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, guilty of violating labor laws and depriving workers of Grameen Telecom. Alongside Yunus, the managing director of Grameen Telecom, Ashraful Hasan, and two directors, Nurjahan Begum and Md. Shahjahan, were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment without labor and fined 5 thousand rupees under Section 303 of the Labor Act. Failure to pay the fine resulted in an additional 10 days’ imprisonment.

Under section 307 of the same law, all individuals were fined Tk 25,000 and sentenced to 15 days in jail if unable to pay, as ruled by Sheikh Marina Sultana, the judge of the Third Labor Court of Dhaka. The defendants in this case were accused of failing to provide permanent employment to 101 employees of Grameen Telecom, neglecting to compensate for public holidays, and omitting to deposit certain dividends to the Sramik Kalyan Foundation. In the 84-page judgment, the judge concluded that the accusations of violating labor laws against the defendants had been substantiated.

Four individuals, including Yunus, the founding managing director of Grameen Bank, have been granted bail for a period of one month by the judge, allowing them to remain out of jail temporarily. This bail is contingent upon their filing of an appeal.

The High Court has upheld the validity of the notice issued by the National Board of Revenue to Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, demanding tax payment of approximately Tk 15 crore for his donation made in 2023. Justices Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar and Sardar dismissed three income tax reference cases filed by Yunus challenging the validity of the notice on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, at the Rashed Jahangir High Court Bench.

Muhammad Yunus was required to deposit Tk 3,61,70,448, representing 10 percent of the tax amount determined by the rules, while filing this application in the High Court against the appellate tribunal’s decision. State lawyers asserted that he would be obligated to pay the remaining Tk 12 crore if he lost the case in the High Court.

Lawyer Md. Mostafizur Rahman Khan represented Yunus during the hearing, while Attorney General AM Amin Uddin represented the state. Yunus argued during the hearing that, as he had donated the money, he should be exempt from tax. Conversely, the state argued before the court that Yunus’ case did not qualify for tax exemption, asserting that he must pay donation tax.

According to case details, in the fiscal year 2011-12, Nobel laureate Yunus donated Tk 61,57,69,000 to Muhammad Yunus Trust, Yunus Family Trust, and Yunus Center. In response to this donation, the NBR issued a notice to Yunus, demanding tax payment of approximately Tk 12,28,74,000 under the provisions of the Donor Act of 1990.

In the accounting year 2012-13, he donated 8 lakh 15 thousand taka to Muhammad Yunus Trust. Subsequently, in the financial year 2013-14, he donated 7 crore 65 lakhs taka to Muhammad Yunus Trust and Yunus Family Trust. In response to these two donations, two additional notices were issued to him, requesting a donation tax of approximately 1 crore 60 lakhs taka and 1 crore 50 lakhs taka respectively.

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, and the institution jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, marking him as the first Bangladeshi to achieve such recognition. During his acceptance speech, Yunus expressed his vision that Grameen Bank would eradicate poverty from Bangladesh and preserve it in museums within the next 15 years. However, despite the passage of considerable time, the reality remains stark: while Grameen Bank possesses substantial assets, numerous families who have availed themselves of loans or microcredit from the bank have faced the loss of their livelihoods and homes.

The renowned Dutch journalist Tom Hahnemann’s documentary, “The Micro Debt,” released in 2011, shed light on Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank, revealing Yunus’s true character and alleged fraudulent activities. The documentary portrays how Yunus purportedly deceived the people of his country and amassed millions of dollars, all while maintaining a charismatic public persona that captivated the attention of the Western world. Despite Yunus being lauded globally as a Nobel laureate for his microcredit initiatives, the documentary suggests that Grameen Bank operates primarily as a lucrative business venture rather than solely a tool for poverty alleviation.

A recent article by the renowned British newspaper ‘The Daily Express’ strongly criticizes Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, stating: “This trend underscores the manipulation of public opinion and the narrative by opponents of the ruling party, predominantly radical Islamist factions, representing a perilous attempt to contaminate public discourse.”

The article further warns: “Such strategies, limited for now to distant shores, have the potential to be exported to other nations, including the UK, which is also on the cusp of significant political change.”

In the socio-political fabric of Bangladesh, the legal predicaments of Dr. Muhammad Yunus are portrayed as indicative of a broader and troubling pattern threatening democracies. The article notes: “Accused under the Bangladesh Labor Act 2006, Dr. Yunus’s conviction has sparked substantial outcry, notably from radical Islamist factions within the country.”

The radical Islamist factions are depicted as framing the legal proceedings as politically motivated, with the article stating: “These factions have framed the legal proceedings as politically motivated, portraying Dr. Yunus as a victim of government oppression, a narrative seemingly championing justice but in reality often furthering their own extremist agendas.”

Dr. Yunus, once hailed as a symbol of innovative economic empowerment, and his associates have faced severe legal repercussions, as the article concludes: “Dr. Yunus, once a symbol of innovative economic empowerment, along with his associates, faced severe legal repercussions that have significantly dented his once stellar reputation.”

The prominent Russian newspaper “SPUTNIK” published an article titled “Muhammad Yunus as ‘TWO-FACED YUNUS'” on January 26. Yunus, once celebrated as the “banker for the poor,” garnered praise for his pivotal role in pioneering micro-lending aimed at alleviating poverty among the lower class by providing credit for them to establish small businesses.

However, recent revelations by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suggest a different narrative. She claimed that Yunus’ financial schemes were exacerbating social inequality by “sucking the blood out of the poor” through high-interest rates, effectively draining their already limited resources.

Despite this criticism, Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts in economic development, and his Grameen Bank gained international recognition for its micro-lending practices, which promised to uplift the poor by empowering them to become successful individuals.


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