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BW Businessworld

Bangla Probe Clears Yunus' Grameen Bank

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A Bangladesh government probe cleared micro-lender Grameen Bank of financial irregularities, the finance minister said on Monday, but the finding will not change the decision to fire Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus.

Yunus, 70, was dismissed by a central bank order -- upheld by the High Court and Supreme Court -- on the grounds that he had overstayed in his position and refused requests to quit.

Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, set up Grameen, which means village in Bengali, and had been the bank's managing director since 2000.

Lauded at home and abroad by politicians and financiers as the "banker to the poor", he has been under attack by the government since late last year, after a Norwegian documentary alleged the bank was dodging taxes.

Yunus denied any wrongdoing, and a Norwegian government investigation later also cleared him of any malpractice.

Bangladesh Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith told reporters on Monday that a committee appointed by the government to investigate Grameen Bank's operations had also found no evidence of financial irregularities.

But officials and experts said the finding would have no impact on the government's decision to fire Yunus as the bank's managing director, because he had overstayed the official retirement age for bank MDs in Bangladesh of 60 years.

Associates of Yunus say his removal was government retaliation after he briefly considered a political career to challenge Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

No comment from Yunus or the Grameen Bank was immediately available.