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Yunus faces fresh fraud charges in Bangladesh

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BANGLADESH’S anti-graft agency last Thursday (1) submitted fresh corruption charges against Nobel Prize winner economist Dr Muhammad Yunus, days after a court granted him bail in a case for violating labour laws.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) accused the 83-year-old economist and 13 others of misappropriating approximately $2.29 million (£1.82m) from the Grameen Telecom Workers’ Profit Participation Fund.

Yunus is the chairman of Grameen Telecom – which he founded in 1983 as a nonprofit organisation. Co-defendants in the case include its directors, managing director and employees’ trade union leaders.

“We have filed the charge sheet against him (Yunus) and 13 others before the Metropolitan senior special judge’s court of Dhaka,” an ACC spokesman told reporters.

The court has set March 3 for an indictment hearing.

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Law minister Anisul Huq rejected allegations of harassing Yunus, saying the government did not fabricate any false cases against him.

“Dr Yunus was warned and advised to prevent these violations, but he ignored them. So, the Labour Department filed a lawsuit,” Huq said. “No one is above the law, and if someone commits a crime, they must face the law.”

Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his anti-poverty campaign, earning Bangladesh the reputation of being the home of microcredit through his Grameen Bank.

He faces more than 150 other cases, including major corruption charges that could see him jailed for years if found guilty. The economist denies all wrongdoing.

Last week, an appeals court granted bail to Yunus, who was sentenced on January 1 to six months in prison for violating the country’s labour laws. The court also agreed to hear an appeal against his sentencing.

Last Thursday’s charges came days after more than 241 global leaders, including more than 125 Nobel prize winners, expressed their concerns over the “continuous judicial harassment and potential jailing” of Yunus in a third open letter to prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

In response to the global leaders’ previous letter, Hasina recently said the signatories “should send experts, including lawyers, to go through all the documents of professor Yunus and his cases to see if there is any wrongdoing or wrongful prosecution.”

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