While secretary of state, Hillary Clinton attempted to bully the tiny nation of Bangladesh to force it to end a corruption investigation of Muhammad Yunus, a long-time Clinton family friend and Clinton Foundation donor, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group.
The information comes from two Bangladeshi government documents generated as part of a request from the U.S. Congress. The documents shed new light on Clinton’s use of hard-ball tactics against the poorest country in South Asia in order to help her millionaire friend and Clinton Foundation donor.
The documents show the Democrats’ 2016 nominee for president deployed an array of high-powered officials at the Department of State, U.S. Embassy, and World Bank to rescue Yunus, who faced financial mismanagement charges at a state-owned banking institution called Grameen Bank. He eventually was removed from the bank.
In 2010, as a Grameen Bank managing director, Yunus faced multiple charges of financial improprieties, including accusations in a Danish documentary that he diverted $100 million from Grameen and transferred them toward his own entities. The charges sparked an immediate uproar in impoverished Bangladesh, where the per capita annual income is about $1,000.
Clinton repeatedly and directly threatened Bangladesh on behalf of Yunus, warning Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that the World Bank could revoke a previously approved $1.2 billion loan to build a key bridge over the Padma River.
The U.S. has been the largest donor to the World Bank and in 2011 contributed $1.5 billion to it. Clinton, as secretary of state, wielded tremendous influence over it.
Clinton’s action on the bridge appeared to be designed to undermine and humiliate Hasina, one of the only female heads of state in the Muslim world. The Wall Street Journal described the Padma River project as “a centerpiece” of Hasina’s pledge to improve infrastructure in her country.
Hasina hoped to build a road-rail bridge over the river to link undeveloped regions of the country to Dhaka, the capital city, which would generate new business investment and create thousands of jobs.
Senate Panel’s Probe
The report of Clinton’s brass knuckle tactics and her use of the World Bank on behalf of a Clinton Foundation donor could widen an ongoing investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is examining pressure tactics she used against the small South Asian country.
On June 1, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to respond to reports that Clinton tried to pressure Hasina by threatening her son with an IRS tax audit while he was living in the United States, as The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported.
“I’ll continue to press for answers from the State Department on whether anyone suggested an IRS audit or used other pressure out of special consideration for a Clinton Foundation donor,” the Iowa Republican said at the time.
Clinton’s opening salvo came in early 2011, when U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh James Moriarty visited Dr. Dipu Moni, then the country’s female foreign minister.
Citing Moni, the document said Moriarty “made it very clear that if we fail to do this [end the Yunus investigation], we’ll have to face a few consequences, i.e. withdrawal of the Padma Bridge funding by the World Bank.”
“How can we, as an elected government, a people’s government, not look into the matter when there were so many serious allegations against Dr. Yunus as MD [managing director]?” Moni asked the U.S. ambassador.
Moriarty repeated a Clinton claim that Grameen Bank was an “independent” nongovernmental organization designed to help the poor, mainly women, through an experimental program called “microfinancing.” Micro-financing allowed borrowers to set up small businesses with loans as small as $25.
But the foreign minister retorted that Grameen was a state-chartered and government-funded bank, not an NGO. Publicly available documents show it is a state-owned bank.
Clinton apparently escalated her attacks. The documents report a March 2011 meeting in the prime minister’s office with top U.S. officials. Joining Moriarty for the meeting was Robert O. Blake, who was Clinton’s assistant secretary for South Asia and Central Asia.
In the encounter, “both the ambassador and the assistant secretary of state were very insistent” that Bangladesh end its investigation, according to the documents.
Moriarty also demanded the government “remove immediately” Mozammel Huq, Grameen’s new government-appointed chairman of the board.
Also accompanying Blake and Moriarty was former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, the secretary of states husband.
“During this conversation, Mr. Wolfensohn looked a bit embarrassed,” according to one document.
The Daily Caller News Foundation contacted Wolfensohn’s office, seeking his recollection. His press representative screamed at a reporter, yelling, “No comment!”
Blake, the State Department official, also tried to enlist the country’s elites to lobby for Yunus in order to put additional pressure on the government, according to the documents.
At a reception at Moriarty’s official residence, the assistant secretary “emphatically” declared Yunus should remain head of Grameen Bank. Otherwise, Blake said, it could trigger Washington actions that “may adversely affect our two countries’ bilateral relations.”
The foreign minister continued talking to Blake, but according to the document she said: “It seemed that somehow, they were not ready to listen to anything that we had to say.”
In one phone conversation, “he was very, very insistent and it was made very clear that there would be consequences if we did not oblige,” she said of Blake.
Blake did not reply to a Daily Caller News Foundation inquiry on his interactions with Bangladesh leaders. He now directs the India and South Asia practice for McLarty Associates. The co-founder of the firm, Thomas McLarty, formerly served as Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff.
Hillary Clinton directly raised the issue of Yunus each time she met with Moni and repeated her demands to the prime minister in a face-to-face meeting in Bangladesh in May 2012. “The message was given and understood by all,” the document stated.
“We explained each time that Grameen Bank was not an NGO. It was a statutory body and must be run according to its own statute as well as other relevant laws governing it, including our Constitution, which it was apparently violating,” Moni told Clinton.
“Everything fell into deaf ears,” she concluded.
Moni said “it was apparent” Clinton wanted to keep Yunus at the bank regardless of “what illegal and irregular acts had been done as MD [managing director],” the document stated.
The document recounted how a local World Bank representative, repeated Clinton’s language in a letter to the foreign minister that unless the probe ended it “might jeopardize the relationship of the government with the donors and there might be consequences.”
Moni said she “was given the impression that the World Bank would even retaliate by withdrawing its funding from our important projects if the government were to continue the work of that [Grameen] committee. The World Bank representative and the U.S. ambassador in Dhaka were using the same language.”
The World Bank charged a Canadian company with “corruption” and revoked the $1.2 billion Padma River Bridge loan in June 2012.
The Ontario Superior Court dismissed all the corruption charges this past February.
The Clintons originally became friends with Yunus when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas. Both were enchanted with his vision of microfinance, and Bill Clinton is credited with lobbying on his behalf to secure Yunus the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Yunus also has been a regular fixture at the Clinton Global Initiative meetings. A search of the Clinton Foundation’s website shows it issued 41 press releases praising Yunus.
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