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Bangladesh orders Nobel laureate Yunus to pay $1.5 million in taxes

The National Board of Revenue has asked Yunus to resolve the “dispute through discussions” at its office on March 29 in the capital after the economist lodged a court appeal against the unpaid bill.

“Professor Yunus is a very good and compliant taxpayer. But his total tax dues now stand at 117.7 million taka ($1.51 million),” tax commissioner Meftha Uddin Khan told AFP.

“We’ve asked him to settle the dispute through discussions,” Khan said.

There was no immediate comment from Yunus, who is widely respected among ordinary Bangladeshis as an elder statesman in the impoverished country which is reeling from months of political instability.

Yunus, 74, has been at odds with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since 2007 when he made a brief foray into the country’s violent and polarised politics dominated by her family and her arch-rival Khaleda Zia.

Yunus was removed in 2011 as head of the micro-lender Grameen Bank that he founded,a move widely seen as orchestrated by Hasina.

“I think this tax dispute is intended to prove that his integrity is not beyond doubt and he’s not as perfect as often … seen by the public,” Ataur Rahman, a retired professor of political science at Dhaka University, told AFP.

Khan said taxes must be paid on financial “gifts” from Yunus in the last three years to three trusts set up for his family members and for charitable purposes.

But Mahbubur Rahman, a tax adviser of Yunus, said that money should be exempt because they were gifts and a ruling on the matter was pending in the High Court.

“We think the gift that Professor Yunus has made through his trusts should be exempted from … tax. He has made an appeal to the High Court against the claim,” Rahman told AFP.

Yunus set up Grameen Bank in 1983 to make collateral-free micro-loans to rural and mostly women entrepreneurs. Its record in helping to reduce poverty earned him global fame and a Nobel Peace Prize.

But Hasina has accused Yunus of “sucking blood” from the poor and in 2013 he faced a state-backed hate campaign seeking to paint him as un-Islamic and a spreader of homosexuality. -AFP



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