Hillary Clinton’s Department of State aides threatened a South Asian prime minister’s son with an IRS audit in an attempt to stop a Bangladesh government investigation of a close friend and donor of Clinton’s, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group learned.
A Bangladesh government commission was investigating multiple charges of financial mismanagement at Grameen Bank, beginning in May 2012. Muhammad Yunus, a major Clinton Foundation donor, served as managing director of the bank.
Sajeeb Wazed Joy, son of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and permanent U.S. resident, recalled the account of the threatened IRS audit to TheDCNF. The allegations mark the first known instance in the U.S. that Clinton’s Department of State used IRS power to intimidate a close relative of a friendly nation’s head of state on behalf of a Clinton Foundation donor.
Joy told TheDCNF it was “astounding and mind boggling” that senior State Department officials between 2010 and 2012 repeatedly pressured him to influence his mother to drop the commission investigation.
The commission report was released in early 2013.
“They threatened me with the possibility of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service,” he said. “I have been here legally for 17 years and never had a problem. But they said, ‘well, you know, you might get audited.’”
“They would say over and over again, ‘Yunus has powerful friends’ and we all knew they were talking of Secretary Clinton. Everybody knew it was Mrs. Clinton,” Joy told TheDCNF.
The Prime Minister originally disclosed in general terms the pressure exerted on her son at a February reception in Munich. Sources such as the Dhaka Tribune carried the news throughout the country.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said her son Sajeeb Wazed Joy had to face pressure from the US State Department to keep Muhammad Yunus as the Grameen Bank managing director,” the Tribune reported.
“Hillary Clinton phoned me and exerted the same pressure. Even the U.S. State Department summoned my son Joy three times and told him that we would face trouble,” Hasina added.
Hasina said State Department officials told Joy that Clinton would not take the matter lightly.
“Convince your mother,” she recalled Joy quoting officials.
However, Hasina never provided details of the ordeal her son faced until his interview with the DCNF.
The World Bank also decided to rescind a $1.2 billion loan to Bangladesh while the IRS was pressuring Joy in 2012. The money was requested in order to build a key bridge near the capital city of Dhaka. The World Bank leveled bribery charges against two Canadian officials, but a Canadian court later acquitted both individuals.
Former Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dijou Moni, who twice met with then-Secretary of State Clinton, told TheDCNF it was apparent there were links between the World Bank loan cancellation and Yunus. Moni now is chairwoman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.
“Whether there was any abuse by the U.S. Government or the secretary of state, that I cannot say,” Moni said. “I can only say we saw two facts: One was the communications from the State Department, and then the other one was the withdrawal of World Bank’s loan.”
But she was more direct about Yunus’ role in the World Bank cancellation.
“Professor Yunus obviously tried to punish or tried to retaliate and punish the government of Bangladesh, especially [Prime Minister] Sheikh Hasina,” she said. “He knew how important the Padma [bridge] was for our economy, for our people’s government, and it would revive the whole of south of Bangladesh.”
“Obviously, he tried to use that to get out of the situation he was in, and he wanted to punish the government,” she said.
Joy claimed he received threats from all levels of the State Department.
“The threats came from all levels. It came from the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh to pretty senior officials within the State Department.”
Joy regularly met many State Department officials as he lived near the nation’s capital. He considered many to be friends and colleagues, but the tone and substance of the discussions radically changed beginning in 2010.
“Previously, we pretty much discussed many issues, things like trade, finance or national security. But then, the only thing they would be harping on was Yunus. They had one obsession, to save Muhammad Yunus.”
Clinton met with Yunus three times as secretary of state while the Bangladesh government investigation was underway, according to an August 2016 Associated Press report on Clinton Foundation donors.
Throughout the Bangladesh government’s investigation, “He (Yunus) pleaded for help in messages routed to Clinton, and she ordered aides to find ways to assist him,” AP reported.
Nonprofit government watchdog Judicial Watch obtained Clinton emails that showed her aide Melanne Verveer regularly updated Clinton on Yunus’ ongoing plight.
Clinton also supported Yunus in other ways. The U.S. Agency for International Development, part of State Department, partnered with the Grameen Foundation for a $162 million micro-finance project in 2009. The agency separately awarded $2.2 million to the foundation.
Yunus first ran into trouble when a 2010 Norwegian documentary charged that he diverted nearly $100 million of Grameen Bank funds to finance his private enterprises. Yunus presently owns more than 50 private and nonprofit companies, ranging from Grameen Telecom to firms in the fashion industry and even a yogurt company.
Joy said word of the $100 million diversion did not sit well with many Bangladeshis who earn an annual per-capita income of $1,314.
“The whole Grameen Bank embezzlement issue was important for us,” Joy said. “You know, he took $100 million from Grameen bank and transferred to his private trust to create 57 personal, private sector projects.”
Joy added that “Yunus eventually paid it back, but that’s not the point. He took the money, and the bank is a state-bank not authorized to provide big business loans.”
After the Bangladesh government commission report came out in 2013, officials removed Yunus as managing director. They invoked a rule stating bank executives can only work up to the age of 60. Yunus was 70 at the time.
Prior to the scandal, Yunus was a high-flying bank executive who championed “micro-credits,” small loans to try to lift the poor out of poverty.
He won the admiration and later financial and political assistance of the Clintons when the former president was governor of Arkansas.
The Clintons also frequently hosted Yunus at their foundation’s annual Clinton Global Initiative galas in New York. He was a heavily promoted as a CGI speaker nearly every year from 2008 to 2016, according to the foundation’s website.
Yunus was awarded the 2006 Noble Peace Prize, reportedly with backroom lobbying by Bill Clinton.
As a New York Senator, Clinton successfully pushed Congress to award him the Congressional Gold Medal. Then-President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in 2010.
Yunus in turn was a donor to the Clinton Foundation. Grameen America, one of Yunus’ major American organizations, gave between $100,000 to $250,000 to the foundation, according to the Clinton Foundation website. His Grameen Research group donated $25,000 to $50,000.
TheDCNF contacted both Grameen America and the Clinton Foundation seeking comment but received responses from neither.