Dec 8, 2010 at 12:17 o\clock

Bangladesh to probe Nobel laureate Yunus over fraud claims

Dhaka, December 8, 2010:  - The government of Bangladesh said Tuesday it would launch an inquiry into reported financial irregularities involving Norwegian aid money by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and micro-credit pioneer Muhammad Yunus.

"Nobody is above the law, no matter how big or how honourable he or she is; finding out the truth is more important," Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told reporters Tuesday.

Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist, is founder of the micro-credit organization Grameen Bank. He was awarded the peace prize in 2006.

Norwegian state television last week reported that Yunus had diverted nearly 100 million dollars in aid from Norway, meant to support the poor through micro-credit programmes, to one of his own companies.

In Oslo, Environment and International Development Minister Erik Solheim appeared to be reassured, citing a fresh report he commissioned from development aid agency Norad.

The measures were taken in 1998, the report said.

"According to the report, there is no indication that Norwegian funds have been used for unintended purposes, or that Grameen Bank has engaged in corrupt practices or embezzled funds," Solheim said in a statement.

The Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka reacted immediately when it discovered the transfer in 1997. In the embassy's view, the transfer was not in accordance with the agreement.

Grameen Bank has dismissed the claims in the documentary titled "Fanget i Mikrogjeld" (Caught in Micro Debt), saying the matter had been settled and there was "nothing wrong."

According to Dipu Moni, the central bank would be one of the agencies tasked with conducting the inquiry.