News / Asia

Bangladesh Nobel Laureate Challenges Dismissal

Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi Nobel Laureate and founder of Grameen Bank (file photo).
Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi Nobel Laureate and founder of Grameen Bank (file photo).

The Bangladeshi man who helped pioneer microfinancing is fighting efforts to remove him from the bank he founded and getting help from the bank's board of directors.

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus lodged a case with the country's High Court Thursday, challenging his dismissal as Grameen Bank's managing director for staying on past the legal retirement age.

Grameen's nine directors also filed a petition with the court challenging the dismissal.

Outside the court, Yunus told reporters he would like to step down, but has stayed on at the request of the board.  He also said he does not want the current situation to cause people to lose faith in the bank.

Bangladesh's central bank removed Yunus, 70, Wednesday saying the mandatory age of retirement is 60.

High Court officials say they expect to issue a ruling Sunday.

Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for helping poor people and women get loans to start businesses and earn a living wage.  But he has been under pressure in Bangladesh for alleged financial irregularities at Grameen.  His supporters say he is being targeted for political reasons.  

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called Yunus a "blood-sucker of the poor." Relations between the two soured in 2007 after Yunus briefly proposed setting up a political party.

The government owns a 25-percent stake in Grameen Bank.

There had also been concerns that Grameen Bank transferred millions of dollars in development funds from Norway to a separate venture without permission.  A Norweigian investigation later concluded the money had been returned and that none of it had been stolen or misused.

U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh James Moriarty told reporters Thursday he finds the development troubling and called for an amicable settlement of the issue. He said that outside the country, Yunus is considered "one of the greatest Bangladeshis."

Grameen currently has nearly 9 million borrowers and has handed out about $10 billion in loans.

The bank provides credit without any collateral to people it describes as "the poorest of the poor" in rural Bangladesh.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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