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Nobel Winner Yunus Faces Calls for Ouster From Grameen Over Age

Grameen Bank's Muhammad Yunus
Muhammad Yunus, managing director of Grameen Bank. Photographer: Kimimasa Mayama/Bloomberg

Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize-winning microfinance pioneer, has breached retirement norms in Bangladesh by continuing to head Grameen Bank, a central bank official said.

“No one is allowed to carry on serving if they are above the age of 60,” K.M. Abdul Wadood, general manager at the banking regulation and policy department of Bangladesh Bank, said in a phone interview today. “We have informed the finance ministry and Grameen Bank’s chairman about this.” Yunus is 71. Wadood declined to comment on why the central bank is taking action against him now.

In December, a documentary shown on Norwegian national television reported that aid money to Grameen Bank was diverted for purposes other than lending. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called for the allegations to be investigated. Yunus said he would welcome any probe, India’s The Telegraph newspaper reported Dec. 6. Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim said in a statement the same month there was “no indication” Norwegian funds were misused.

Last month, Bangladesh’s Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith asked Yunus to step down, Bangladesh’s Daily Star newspaper reported today.

“Professor Yunus continues to be in his position as the managing director of Grameen Bank,” spokeswoman Jannat-E-Quanine said in an e-mail today. “There is no directive on Professor Yunus to cease functioning as managing director, nor is there any suggestion of his being removed him from this post.”

Bangladesh owns 5 percent of Grameen Bank and is represented by the chairman of the lender’s board. The central bank has no other problems with Yunus or the way Grameen Bank is run, Wadood said. The bank to the poor now covers 95 percent of Bangladesh’s villages, with 8.35 million borrowers, as of January, according to its website.

Yunus and Grameen Bank shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. He founded the lender in 1983 to extend unsecured loans to the poor.

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