Others beyond Sonali involved in scam

Posted by BankInfo on Mon, Sep 10 2012 03:46 am

Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday said many from outside the Sonali Bank were involved in the much-talked-about Hall-Mark swindle.

Without mentioning any names, he said those linked to the scandal had been identified following much investigation. And cases would be filed in this regard “very soon”.

Muhith added it was a mistake on his part to say that crores of taka swindled out of a Sonali Bank branch was a petty sum.

“I have acknowledged my mistake, and those who don't admit mistakes lack moral strength”, he told reporters at his secretariat office hours before leaving for China last night on a 10-day tour to join the World Economic Forum meeting.

The minister replied to journalists' queries on a number of issues, including Padma bridge funding, Grameen Bank and Mashiur Rahman's and his resignation.

Recently, a Bangladesh Bank probe found serious anomalies in the lending of Tk 3,606 crore to the Hall-Mark Group and five other companies.

Half of the loans, granted by the Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch, were based on forged documents.

Muhith yesterday said it was quite impossible that such a grave offence was being committed and yet nobody in Sonali Bank had noticed it.

Replying to a query about extending the tenure of the Sonali Bank chairman and directors for another two years, the finance minister said a three-member board led by the chairman would remain in office.

Muhith said a government official and a chartered accountant had been kept as board members and the tenure of no other director had been extended.

A board is necessary for taking decisions on a number of matters, including cases regarding the scam, he added.

The minister said the Sonali Bank board would be reconstituted and a decision in this regard taken on his return from China.

About the demand for his resignation, he said, “There are many demands like this …. But I have not taken any decision.”

The minister also spoke on the bridge project. “We have been in talks with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) in this regard. I will speak about this after the talks conclude.”

Muhith declined to comment on the WB condition relating to the removal of the Prime Minister's Economic Affairs Adviser Mashiur Rahman for the funding of the project.

“Talks are also going on with the World Bank about this matter. I cannot say anything about this at this point.”

Also yesterday, Muhith defended a recent change in the Grameen Bank Ordinance, saying the government had brought in the amendment to appoint a full-time managing director.

The appointment “must be done”; it had long been pending owing to objections apparently from directors, he said.

The world-renowned microcredit organisation has been run by an acting chief executive since its founder, Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus, stepped down in May last year.

Grameen Bank supporters both at home and abroad and also the nine elected women borrower-directors say the change has been introduced to curb the authority of the majority of the board in choosing the managing director and give more powers to the government-picked chairman.

The minister also said the law did not permit the powers exercised over the last 27 years in appointing the managing director.

"The government allowed this to let a good thing continue. But there are two sides of the coin -- one is flexibility and the other is unaccountability,” he added.

News: The Daily Star/Bangladesh/10-Sep-12