New documents made public by investigative journalist and documentary film maker Tom Heinemann in his controversial documentary on microfinance titled Caught in Micro debt accuse Grameen Bank’s founder of diverting developmental aid money from foreign countries meant for Grameen Bank into For-Profit ventures more than 10 years ago.
In 1997 the Norwegian authorities discovered that 608 million kroner (US$ 100 Million approximately) aid from Norway and other countries contributed to the Grameen Bank was being diverted by Mohammed Yunus and his closest associates to a company that was engaged in an entirely different sector.
When the Norwegian Embassy raised the alarm about the relationship in 1998, more than 50 million aid money had already been transferred to the For-Profit company Grameen Phone in which Norway’s Telenor is the largest shareholder. The whole matter had been kept a secret until now.
The Norwegian Foreign Affairs committee in Norway’s Parliament has reacted strongly to the information presented in the documentary yesterday and intends to launch an investigation into the diversion of developmental aid by Grameen Bank.
The documentary film maker Tom Heinemann, also revealed that Prof Mohammed Yunus refused to speak to him during the making of the documentary despite repeated attempts to get his version of the story.
The documentary also looks at the effectiveness of Grameen Bank along with it’s miracle stories of transforming people’s lives and concludes that it has had little impact on poverty in all these years. In one segment Heinemann visits the home of the celebrated original grameen loan-taker – Sufiya Begum in Jobra village. Celebrated in grameen folklore that is. He finds some very uncomfortable stories and comes to know that she died in poverty and all her daughters today are beggars.
A source has confirmed that Grameen Bank and Grameen Foundation will soon be issuing an official response to the claims made in the documentary.
Archive of Letters (ZIP file). Contains pdf files of correspondence between Dr Mohammed Yunus, Norwegian Developmental Agency (NORAD) and the Norwegian Embassy.
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