Bangladesh’s tax authorities have launched a new investigation into the financial affairs of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, his family and the micro-credit agency Grameen Bank that he founded, reports Al Jazeera.
Last week, it said, the central investigation cell of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) sent notices to banks requiring them to provide information within seven days about any accounts, loans, or other financial instruments held in the last seven years either by Yunus, his wife, the Yunus family trust, or Grameen Bank.
The notices, seen by Al Jazeera, were sent out a week after a tax commissioner had written to Yunus informing him the NBR had also decided to audit his personal tax return for the current financial year, and asking for documentation to “verify” his income and expenditure.
According to Al Jazeera, the latest inquiry is seen by some observers as a possible new step in the ruling Awami League party’s feud with Yunus, which was initially triggered by his attempt in 2007 to form a political party.
The Al Jazeera report mentioned that Iftekharuzzaman, head of Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International, said the NBR has jurisdiction to make such inquiries but added if it is politically motivated, to victimise a person, then it is a cause of concern.
However, the prime minister’s media adviser, Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, denied the new NBR inquiries involved any kind of harassment. “These letters are just a question of a financial institution getting financial information which can happen to any citizen, including ministers and businessman,”said Iqbal Sobhan.
In 2010, the government authorities removed Yunus as the managing director of Grameen Bank
Sabbir Osmani, media spokesperson of the Yunus Centre, was quoted to have said Yunus was “not in a position to comment” on the NBR notices sent to the banks.
The NBR in 2015 reportedly filed a court case against Yunus for allegedly failing to pay $1.5m in tax — an allegation the Nobel Peace Prize winner called “baseless”. The case was subsequently stayed by the High Court, the report pointed out.
Al Jazeera said the NBR letters were sent a couple of weeks after US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a strong supporter of Yunus when she was secretary of state, lost the US election.