The chairman of Grameen Bank yesterday presented a letter at a board meeting that questioned the post of Professor Muhammad Yunus as its managing director beyond his retirement age.
The letter was written by a Bangladesh Bank official to the finance ministry expressing an opinion that Prof Yunus continued to hold the post beyond his retirement age of 60, which was not lawful.
And no endorsement was obtained for this from Bangladesh Bank, said Khondaker Muzammel Huq, chairman of Grameen Bank, who received a copy of the letter.
Muzammel, a former employee who had served under Yunus, has recently been appointed by the government as chairman of Grameen. Yesterday's meeting with Grameen directors came in the wake of a controversy surrounding the micro-lender.
Quoting the letter, Muzammel told The Daily Star that Yunus has been staying in the post for an indefinite period, which is not within the law.
In response to queries from The Daily Star, Jannat-E-Quanine, general manager of Grameen Bank, said: "We cannot make any comments on board proceedings or discuss anything that relates to the board meeting.”
“We can confirm that no letter addressed to Professor Muhammad Yunus has been received from Bangladesh Bank.”
“The chairman of the Grameen Bank Board is referring to a letter addressed to the Ministry of Finance where it is understood that a Bangladesh Bank official has expressed an opinion regarding Professor Yunus's term as managing director.”
“There is no directive on Professor Yunus to cease functioning as managing director, nor is there any suggestion of his being removed from this post. Professor Yunus continues to be in his position as the managing director of Grameen Bank.”
Meanwhile, news agency AFP reported that Bangladesh moved to force Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus out of his pioneering microfinance bank, with the central bank saying he had passed retirement age and had to go.
Supporters of the 70-year-old Yunus, including former Irish president Mary Robinson, say there is a campaign of politically orchestrated attacks on the Nobel laureate after he fell out with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2007.
Bangladesh Bank sent a letter to the finance ministry saying that Yunus, who won the Nobel prize in 2006 for his work making small loans to poor entrepreneurs, should be removed from the Grameen Bank he founded.
"In the letter -- a copy of which has been given to me -- the central bank said he no longer can stay as the chief executive of the Grameen Bank because the retirement age of the bank is 60,” said Grameen Bank Chairman Muzammel Huq.
Hence, him being the bank chief executive is "illegal and not valid," Huq said, reading out the letter to AFP.
A Bangladesh Bank official said the finance ministry can now remove Yunus because the government holds a 25 percent stake in the micro-lender.
"We told the finance ministry his overstaying as the chief executive clearly flouted section number 14(1) of the Grameen Bank laws," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The move comes as Yunus faces intense pressure from the government to quit his post. In early February, Finance Minister AMA Muhith asked the Nobel winner to go.
Following the release of a Norwegian documentary in December which accused Yunus and Grameen of malpractice, Yunus has been vilified in the Bangladeshi press and seen his bank become the target of a government investigation.
After the release of the documentary, the Norwegian government opened an investigation and expressed its full satisfaction over the use of its funds.