Dhaka, Feb 13 (bdnews24.com) – Illegal banking outfit Jubok has applied to become a legal micro-credit enterprise amid fresh charges that it was not repaying millions of taka it owed to clients, officials said Tuesday.
Jubo Karmasangsthan Society, better known as Jubok, was enlisted as a 'society' under the government's registrar of joint stock companies, but was found guilty of illegal banking in July last year.
"Jubok now has applied for a licence to operate as a micro-finance organisation," Khandakar Muzharul Haque, executive vice-chairman, of micro-credit watchdog, said.
"We are scrutinising its application along with all those who have applied to become micro-credit lenders in the country," he said.
The Jubok's move came amid fresh charges that it was not paying back millions of taka it owed to thousands of depositors.
Hussain Al Masum set up Jubok at a small room at Dhaka's Aziz Cooperative Market in 1994. Originally, the aim of the organisation was to impart computer training to young men.
The so-called 'society' rose to prominence last year after a string of deals that saw Jubok buying big stakes in a private bank and a television channel and launching of a nationwide private fixed phone company.
The organisation also owns the country's one of the biggest tour operators, a real estate company, a ceramics factory and one of the biggest private-run rubber plantations.
Bangladesh Bank carried out investigation into its operations in July last year after charges of 'amassing unaccounted money' were brought by some newspapers. It found Jubok guilty of illegal banking across the country.
The BB ordered it to repay nearly 1 billion (Tk 100 crore) it owed to its depositors by December 31. In December Jubok said it had already paid Tk 600 million to the depositors and sought more time to repay the whole amount.
On December 20, the BB asked Jubok to submit the names and addresses of clients, the amount of money collected from them, the amount of money returned, the date of return and the name of the branch through which the money was repaid.
Jubok was asked to inform the central bank fortnightly on the progress of its compliance with the directive.
The central bank, however, last week warned Jubok of non-compliance of its order and said Jubok had paid only Tk 210 million.
"Their figures showed that they only paid back Tk 210 million. And the figures don't show all the relevant information we needed from them," a central bank official said.
"Their statements are misleading. It is impossible to know whether they have actually paid back the money to their depositors," he added.
The Jubok chief was not available for comment.
The new micro-credit watchdog said it would scrutinise Jubok's illegal banking and 'show caution' before issuing licence.
The government formed the Microcredit Regulatory Authority (MRA) in August last year to oversee the functions of hundreds of micro-lenders.
It has asked all the lenders to apply for licences to carry out their operations legally. It will start issuing licences from next month.
"We are not going to issue any licence to any disputed organisation. We will verify the disputes and then take our decision," Haque said.
"We should be cautious about Jubok since there are a lot of allegations against them. We should initiate another probe," a senior central bank official said.