Nobel laureate economist Prof Dr Muhammad Yunus allegedly evaded tax worth around Tk 1,000 crore from his company Grameen Telecom and laundered abroad in the name of ‘social business’.
Social business is aimed at addressing a social cause. The investment made by the investors is entirely with a vision of contributing to the social welfare discarding idea of profit.
The Appellate Division recently dismissed the ‘leave to appeal’ filed against Grameen Telecom founder Dr Muhammad Yunus, accused of violating the labour law. After depriving the rights of labour, he tried to get a favourable verdict of the pending court cases.
The money laundering, corruption and other criminal activities of Dr Yunus have been proven by credible authorities which are ‘serious punishable offences’ according to anti-money laundering act and penal code of Bangladesh.
Now, his involvement in ‘tax evasion’ came into light which would be the ‘biggest tax evasion’ case in the history of Bangladesh considering the scale, depth and novelty of the crime.
Dr Yunus got license from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to do telecommunications business with Grameen Telecom in 1997. Over the period, the company developed the largest telecom brand – Grameenphone.
The economist convinced then government to take license mentioning that the business will change the fate of poor people through connectivity across the villages. He promised to provide services to poor people, not to ‘make profit’.
Grameen Telecom was originally licensed as a non-profit organisation. However, Dr Yunus have done everything to change his fortunes through corruption and criminal activities. Most of the shares of Grameenphone have been handed over to foreign companies at the cost of the country's fate.
Grameen Telecom currently owns 34.20 percent shares of Grameenphone. The company receives dividend of more than Tk 10 billion annually from the subsidiary of Telenor, a Norwegian telecom giant.
As the company runs by a trust, there is no option to take whole dividend. Besides, the non-profit company formed under Section 28 of the Companies Act has no share capital, and no individual ownership.
However, Dr Yunus is embezzling billions of taka from dividends of Grameen Telecom every year and laundering the fund abroad in the name of social business.
Around 42.6 percent of its dividend income was transferred from Grameen Phone to Grameen Kalyan in violation of the provisions of Sections 28 and 29 of the Companies Act, 1994 even though Grameen Kalyan is not a shareholder of Grameen Phone Limited.
As per law, the entire dividend income of Grameen Telecom has to be booked as its income and taxed accordingly at the applicable corporate rate for the relevant financial year. But a review of their audited accounts show that they have paid almost half of their dividend income from Grameen Telecom to Grameen Kalyan only with advance income tax at the rate of 10-20 percent. The applicable corporate tax rate for them was from 35 percent to 37.5 percent, according to law.
This difference in corporate rate and dividend taxes is tax evasion as Grameen Kalyan is not entitled to the dividend income of Grameen Telecom in any way as per existing law. If we add all the taxes that Grameen Telecom has evaded since its inception, it amounts to &10 billion.
This tax evasion account is only for Grameen Telecom. Other companies and institutions controlled by Dr Yunus and his personal income tax have also been subjected to widespread tax evasion over the years as a matter of course. The amount is huge for tax evasion cases of other organisations controlled by Dr Yunus,
During the 26 years of operation of Grameen Telecom, about one thousand crores of tax was evaded. During this long time, Dr Yunus has been evading 15 to 25 percent of taxes per FY.
From 1997 to 2005, in Grameen Telecom, Dr Yunus evaded 25 percent tax per annum. At that time, the tax was 35 percent of which only 10 percent was paid. From 2006 to 2008, the economist evaded tax at 20 per cent of the organisation annually.
At that time, he paid only 15 percent against 35 percent tax. From 2009 to 2022, Dr Yunus’s company Grameen Telecom paid only 20 percent tax against 35 percent rate per FY.
It is worth noting, Dr Yunus has filed several cases and writ petitions with the country's courts to cover up his tax evasion issues. The purpose of all these lawsuits is to defend tax evasion.
BDST: 1310 HRS, MAY 22, 2023