Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize-Winning Economist, Facing Probe Over Alleged Tax-Exempt Status

The Bangladeshi government is going after a Nobel Prize-winning economist who has dedicated his life to eliminating poverty.

Muhammad Yunus, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in the field of microfinance, is under investigation by the Bangladeshi government, which claims he may have held tax-exempt status while serving as managing director of Grameen Bank, according to CNN.

Yunus, who has blogged for The Huffington Post, was forced out of Grameen Bank in 2011, despite having founded the institution in the 1980s and receiving international acclaim for his efforts to direct small-scale loans to impoverished people. Government representatives said Yunus, who is 72, violated a law that requires officials to retire at age 60.

Yunus reportedly has a number of enemies in the Bangladeshi government. Before his ouster, he had to deflect false reports from the government that he had already resigned from Grameen. The government is also reportedly trying to tighten its control over Grameen by expanding the power of the government-appointed chairman to choose its managing director, according to the Washington Post. Right now, that power resides with the bank’s board of directors, which is made up of Yunus supporters.

Yunus and his Grameen have faced increasing scrutiny in recent years after experts and policymakers began to question the efficacy of microfinance, and many of the leaders in the field, some of whom profit off the loans they make, unlike Yunus, according to The New York Times.

In one example of the heightened focus, Yunus faced allegations from the Bangladeshi government last year that one of his non-profit organizations was producing bad yogurt for the poor, claims “considered frivolous by most accounts,” according to the Times.

The Bangladeshi government may not have much credibility when it comes to its attacks. It’s ranked about two-thirds of the way up a a list of the most corrupt governments in the world, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Of course, Bangladesh wouldn’t be the first country to target a Nobel laureate run afoul of the government. The Iranian government in 2009 froze the assets of Shirin Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work as a lawyer and human-rights activist, according to Time.