Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus said he has left Grameen Bank to prevent disruptions at the pioneering microlender he founded, days after a court upheld the Bangladeshi government’s decision to remove him.
The statement the 71-year-old banker issued late on Thursday said he was voluntarily resigning as managing director to “prevent undue disruption in the activities of Grameen Bank.”
He disputes the Supreme Court ruling that the government was right to remove him as he passed the retirement age of 60 and insists only Grameen’s board of directors has the power to remove him.
Yunus and Grameen pioneered the idea of issuing small loans to the poor as a way to lift people out of poverty. The work earned him and the bank the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Yunus said last week he was worried about the future of the bank and its nearly 9 million borrowers, nearly all of them poor Bangladeshi women. Many use their small loans to make ends meet or to start small businesses.
He indicated he fears the government may seek to influence Grameen Bank’s governing structure and its lending policies, which could destabilize the agency.
He has accused Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s administration of trying to take control of the bank.
The government denies the allegation and says the bank will continue.
Yunus handed control to his deputy, Nurjahan Begum.
A government-sponsored committee last month recommended changes to make Gameen more accountable.
The committee concluded Grameen had changed many basics of its 1983 founding charter and created many successful affiliates beyond its mandate that did not benefit shareholders.
Grameen, however, disputed the report.
Yunus has long had frosty relations with the prime minister. She was reportedly angered by Yunus’ 2007 attempt to form his own political party backed by the powerful army when the country was under a state of emergency and Hasina herself was behind bars.
Hasina has also accused Grameen Bank and other microfinance institutions of charging high interest rates and “sucking blood from the poor borrowers.”