[Cross posted at E-Bangladesh]
Since my post two days ago regarding General Moeen U Ahmed’s tenure as chairman of Trust Bank, General Moeen has responded to the concerns raised by me and others in the Bangladeshi blogosphere by giving a series of interviews to various television, radio and print journalists.
Today General Moeen’s response has been covered by every major Bangladeshi newspaper. General Moeen’s denial and the many interviews he has given surprised me. The blanket coverage in Bangladeshi papers was also surprising. I am sure Bangladeshi readers are confused since this may be the first time they are hearing about the Trust Bank issue since no papers have ever covered it. They must be wondering what General Moeen is responding to.
In his interviews, General Moeen denied taking out a loan of approximately 1 crore taka. Instead he said that the loan amount was much less and the Internet reports about his loan were "false" and meant to "malign" him. BDNews24 reports:
General Moeen U Ahmed Saturday brushed aside the allegations of taking Tk 1 crore in loans from a bank and said it was all designed to "malign" him.
The army chief, visiting the US, said: "It’s not true that I borrowed Tk 1 crore from Trust Bank. It’s not true either that I paid back Tk 60 lakh."
The interview was aired on BBC Radio (Bangla).
According to the allegations what BBC said was spread by the internet, Moeen borrowed about Tk 1 crore in loans from Trust Bank in 2005 and repaid more than Tk 60 lakh until the end of 2006.
"It’s totally false. I have borrowed only as much as permitted for an army officer in line with Trust Bank rules. I didn’t borrow even one taka more than permitted."
Moeen said he borrowed only Tk 35 lakh, which includes Tk 25 lakh in house loans.
"It’s all documented. Anyone can see that. Anybody can contact me. I am paying back the loans with the money I get from house rents," he told BBC by phone.
"It (allegation) was all designed to malign me."
The New Nation quotes General Moeen as follows:
General Moeen said, "I have the documents whatever I have said. Anyone can see these documents at any time. So, I took a loan of Tk 99 lakh and repaid Tk 66 lakh in the following year is absolutely a blatant lie.
"It is a propaganda against me which is being carried out intentionally. This propaganda is being carried out against me with an ulterior motive to destroy my image and undermine me before the members of the public. And, this propaganda has been carried out when I have come to the United Nations, and when the expatriates living in the United Kingdom and the United States have been extending warm welcome to me. Perhaps, someone could not tolerate this affection and love of expatriate Bangladeshis toward me and has resorted to making false, fabricated and baseless propaganda against me. But, I have nothing to say against such propaganda and spreading of lies. However, if somebody wants to know about the income and expenditure statement of mine or Trust Bank loan I will welcome him," he said.
The Army Chief said he had always been trying to remain transparent to his conscience. "So, I don’t want to make any comment on such propaganda through Internet. There is no problem if anyone wants to know about my account officially or privately," he said.
However, the prospectus filed on May 17, 2007 by Trust Bank to the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission clearly notes that General Moeen had an outstanding loan amount of Tk. 9,969,215 at the end of 2005 and an outstanding loan amount of Tk. 3,315,323 at the end of 2006. The following chart appears on page 20 of the prospectus [click image to enlarge]:
According to Trust Bank’s prospectus, the loan amounts to General Moeen specified on page 20 are "per audited accounts for the years ended on 31 Dec 2005 and 2006."
In his various interviews General Moeen went on to describe how he has been repaying the loan. However, my earlier post did not deal with the issue of how General Moeen has been repaying his loan. My post dealt with three issues that appear to run afoul of Bangladesh Bank regulations for banks. These issues are:
General Moeen and his brother, Iqbal U Ahmed, are both on the board of directors of Trust Bank. This appears to violate Bangladesh Bank regulations that state "not more than one member of a family will become director of a bank. For this purpose family members shall include spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters of the director and other persons dependent on him/her."
General Moeen points out that his brother was already the Managing Director of the Bank when General Moeen became Chairman of Trust Bank. However, in November 2006, while General Moeen was Chairman, his brother was reappointed Managing Director of Trust Bank. This appears to violate the Bangladesh Bank regulations which state that the above "restriction shall apply to appointment/reappointment of the directors".
General Moeen had an outstanding loan amount from Trust Bank well in excess of the Tk. 500 it appears he is allowed to borrow as a member of the board of directors according to Bangladesh Bank regulations. The regulations restrict lending to directors of a bank. The regulations state: "the total amount of the loan facilities extendable to a Director or to his relatives should not exceed 50% of the paid-up value of the shares of that bank held in Director’s own name." General Moeen owns 10 shares of Trust Bank worth Tk. 1000 before the IPO, as specified on page 23 of Trust Bank’s prospectus.
It was refreshing to see General Moeen address the concerns about his tenure as Chairman of Trust Bank. However, his response has raised a discrepancy between the amount of loan he states he took out and the loan amount stated in Trust Bank’s own official filing with the Bangladesh government. General Moeen also did not address the Bangladesh Bank regulations and whether his tenure ran afoul of them. I hope that General Moeen or Trust Bank will clarify the discrepancy between what General Moeen has stated and what is in the Trust Bank prospectus, as well as the issues raised by the Bangladesh Bank regulations.
This is no small matter. Many individuals in Bangladesh have been thrown in jail by General Moeen’s government because what they stated from memory on their "wealth statements" did not match their bank records.