The name, Nobel laureate professor Dr. Yunus, is again being discussed in the media. Recently, 40 global personalities wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, expressing concern about the health and safety of Professor Yunus. In the letter, the dignitaries claimed that Professor Yunus was a victim of "unfair treatment" by the government. Among the signatories are former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President of the US Al Gore, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, and international figures such as Ted Kennedy Jr., son of the late US Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Last Tuesday (March 7, 2023), the letter was published as a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post. The letter also called on the government to end the "harassment" of Yunus and stop official investigations into the companies he runs.
Analyzing the letter from a fundamental point of view, it can be seen that the allegations in the letter are objective, biased, and based on assumptions. The letter claims that Professor Yunus is being subjected to unreasonable attacks and harassment by the Bangladesh government. However, they did not specify what kind of injustice or attack Dr. Yunus is facing or how his work is being hindered. There is no news in the local or foreign media that he is being harassed in Bangladesh. He has been traveled to countless places abroad. What is stopping him? Has he been banned from traveling abroad? There is no evidence of how the Nobel laureate is being harassed. Therefore, this allegation has no basis. The government did not treat Yunus in such a way that an open letter would have to be printed in advertisement form. Analysts therefore called it a "smear campaign" against the Bangladesh government.
Interestingly, the open letter has been written at a time when he is being investigated and prosecuted for several allegations of financial irregularities and corruption. The Anti-Corruption Commission has decided to look into allegations of $2 million in illegal acquisition, $4.8 million in misappropriation, and $314 million in laundering against Grameen Telecom. Various investigations are uncovering other frauds, irregularities, and illegal activities at Grameen Bank under Yunus. It is also alleged that 14 companies owned by Muhammad Yunus evaded income tax by about 3 billion dollars. In essence, state institutions, including the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the National Bureau of Revenue (NBR), are performing their regular duties in relation to money laundering and tax-related charges against Dr. Yunus. What is the role of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina here?
In addition, there are widespread allegations that Dr. Yunus illegally transferred foreign donor funds to various non-governmental organizations for his own benefit and illegally settled 110 cases filed against him by workers of the Grameen Telecom Union with Tk 250 million. These issues undoubtedly put Dr. Yunus in an embarrassing situation. In such a position, he has started global lobbying to put pressure on the Bangladesh government, especially Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It is clear that he wants to use his relationship with world leaders as a shield to protect himself.
The letter was printed as an advertisement, not a news item, in the famous US newspaper "The Washington Post". The magazine's policy on publishing advertisements clearly states that the letter does not reflect their own views. This is paid content. Instead of sending the letter directly to the Bangladesh government, it was published as a full-page ad in the Washington Post at a cost of approximately $73,333 (Tk 7,814,584). Why spend so much money to promote it? It is easy to imagine who spent so many lakhs of taka to publish this letter. Certainly not the famous people like Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, or Ban Ki-moon. Moreover, why is this letter not available on the websites of other international leaders?
The letter also said Dr. Yunus didn't benefit from Grameen phones. According to available data, Grameen Phone has 28 million subscribers, an annual revenue of more than $1 billion, and profits of hundreds of millions of dollars, making it the largest telecommunications service provider in Bangladesh by far. Where did the money of the citizens of the country go? Why did he sell the shares of Grameenphone to the Telenor company owned by the Norwegian government without taking a profit? What is its purpose? The fact that the Norwegian government has an important influence over who receives the Nobel Prize is already well known around the world. So why did he accept the Nobel Prize by leaving a thriving company like Grameenphone without profit?
It is regrettable that international leaders sometimes try to put pressure on the Bangladeshi administration without knowing the real facts in order to protect their friendship. By not addressing the aforementioned crimes, Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill Clinton are biased against Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus. Prof. Yunus skillfully managed to hide his fraud and corruption from other dignitaries abroad, including Hillary Clinton, as well as diverting attention from the world media. Note that Yunus-controlled companies have officially given between $125,000 and $300,000 to the Clinton Foundation in the past. We will never be able to determine how much Professor Yunus paid Clinton for the privileges he was taking. Cannot Investigative journalists around the world investigate these fraudulent activities of Muhammad Yunus!
The law of every civilized and democratic society where the rule of law is established states that 'no one is above the law', no matter how powerful and great he may be. We know that if famous officials of big business organizations in Western countries and even the president or prime minister of those countries evade taxes or commit corruption, action is taken under the laws of that country. Many have a record of jail terms and fines. However, due to his friendship with powerful people in different countries such as the United States, France, and Germany, Yunus doesn't care about the laws and regulations of Bangladesh. The people of Bangladesh are shocked at how a dignified man like him can spoil the reputation of the country for personal gain!
Despite clear evidence of malfeasance and corruption, few world leaders have stood by a man who can do anything, including denigrate the Nobel Prize, for his personal gain. Bangladeshis strongly believe that Western leaders have failed to recognize the ugly face of Professor Yunus behind the mask. So, people hope that those who signed the letter sent to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, will at least look into the allegations leveled against Professor Yunus.
Mashrur Siddique Bhuiyan
Development worker and independent researcher