The pressure Hillary Clinton exerted on the Bangladeshi prime minister to help one of her donors was so extreme that the world leader was stunned at the audacity.
While she was secretary of state Clinton made personal calls to pressure Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to demand that Dr. Muhammed Yunus be restored to his role as chairman of a “microcredit” bank in the country. Grameen Bank had given between $100,000 and $250,000 to Clinton’s charity. Yunus’ other company, Grameen Research, also donated tens of thousands to the charity.
Grameen bank is the country’s largest provider of “micro-targeted” loans, designed to help small, rural communities and entrepreneurs.
“Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in March 2011 insisting her not to remove Dr. Muhammad Yunus from the post of Managing Director of Grameen Bank,” Deputy Press Secretary Md Nazrul Islam told Circa in an email, Circa reports
The press secretary said that Prime Minister Hasina told Clinton that according to the bank’s rules nad regulations, nobody was permitted to be managing director of the bank after age 70. Yunus was 70 when he was removed.
According to the Bangladesh government, Grameen Bank is part of a statutory body of the government and therefore is subject to the banking laws, saying they told Clinton “Dr. Yunus drew salaries and allowances illegally for 10 years.”
A commission set up by the Bangladesh government also began investigating Grameen Bank in 2012 for financial mismanagement.
Yunus wouldn’t comment to Circa, but he has always denied any wrongdoing and said his removal was merely “internal politics.”
In a 2013 interview, Yunus said he feared his ouster would put the bank he founded to help millions of impoverished people with microcredit — small loans that are often unsecured by assets but have higher interest rates — under too much government control and alter its mission.
“It will be a disaster,” he said at the time. “Everybody in Bangladesh knows that if any business is controlled by the government, it goes down. Now why do they want to do that for the bank?
“Attack me as a person if you don’t like me, but what wrong has the bank done? The bank is owned by the poor women, it is financed with their deposits,” he added. “The bank should be under the control of those women. That’s the way I had always wanted to keep it.”
Mrs. Clinton’s newly disclosed call to reinstate Dr. Yunus marks one of the most direct involvements in an official government matter that impacted one of her husband’s donors. It may trigger new calls for a criminal investigation into the foundation’s activities but “it’s not likely that anything would come of it,” said Richard Painter, former Chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush.
“People in public life shouldn’t be raising money from anybody, anywhere, or for anything,” Painter said. “But until we fix the campaign finance system this is the way it’s going to be.”
Painter, who supported Clinton during her campaign for president, said that there is little if any evidence that she crossed any legal lines regarding the Clinton Foundation. He said favoritism to somebody giving money to campaign is often and frequent in Washington D.C. politics and “if that were the case we’d be investigating the entire U.S. Congress.”
“This shows the Clinton’s insensitivity to the public’s anger and lack of judgement when they expanded the fundraising beyond politics,” said Painter, who said people in public office should not be raising money.