Bangladesh’s central bank says it is removing Nobel peace prize winner Muhammad Yunus as boss of the microlender Grameen Bank.
He was ordered to quit on the grounds that he is ten years beyond the retirement age. There has also been allegations of financial irregularities at the bank. Yunus denies that.
His supporters said this was a political move stemming from a feud with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Grameen Bank said it had not received any notification from the central bank, and Yunus has said the bank’s board, which is mainly made up of borrowers, allows him to stay on as long as he is able to perform his duties.
“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,” spokeswoman Jannat-E-Quanine said in a statement.
Late last year, the government, which holds a 25 percent stake in the microlender, appointed a new chairman critical of Yunus, a move supporters of the so-called banker to the poor said was ultimately aimed at the state taking over the bank.
This month, Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said Yunus should step down, as he was now “old and we need to define the bank’s role and bring it under close regulation.”
Prime Minister Hasina has called Yunus a “blood-sucker of the poor” and sharply criticised Grameen Bank’s microlending practices.
Yunus won the Nobel peace prize in 2006 for his work to battle poverty through microfinance – lending small amounts to people – particularly women – to set up businesses. Previously they had had to borrow from moneylenders who charge extremely high interest rates.