Sonali Bank: Loans taken in name of labourers, widows, fishermen, beggars

A fraudulent gang used documents of more than 506 people, including daily workers, widows, fishermen and beggars, in Longdu upazila of Rangamati 12 years ago and took loans from the local branch of state-owned Sonali Bank, according to a police investigation.

None of these people had any knowledge about the loan until the bank sent them notices about the loan which has multiplied several times over.

Fatema Begum is a homemaker from Paschim Chaillaytoli village of the upazila’s Vasannadam union. Her husband Md Abdul Jabbar is a daily wager. Recently, Fatema Begum learned that four accounts were opened in her name and a total of Tk 187,728 has been taken as loans from the bank.

Fatema Begum said she never went to Sonali Bank for a loan. Her national identity (ID) card was used for a government allowance 12 years ago, and she received Tk 700. Now she learned her NDI was used to take loans from the bank four times.

According to police, Sonali Bank started serving loan notices to the residents of Vasannadam and Bogachattar unions in November last year and more than 500 people received these notices.

After that several victims complained to various government officials including the superintendent of police on 27 November, and Londgu police station assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Md Joynal was tasked with investigating the allegations.

The investigation found that the bank sanctioned loans ranging from Tk 25,000 to Tk 35,000 to at least 500 people from Vasannadam and Bogachattar unions, totalling at least Tk 15 million. With capital and interest, the amount has more than doubled now.

Several victims staged a demonstration in Langdu on 14 January protesting the loan fraud and demanding justice. They alleged a group of local agents and corrupt bank officials took loans using their documents.

Victims alleged their signatures were also forged and asked how bank officials sanctioned loans to such a large number of people without any verification.

ASI Md Joynal said the investigation found the allegation on the loan to be true, but the bank did not disclose the loan amounts admitting that 506 people from Landu were sanctioned with loans.

Sonali Bank’s Langdu branch manager Md Abul Kayes said they cannot comment on the matter without the authorisation of the higher authorities.’

Langdu upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Md Saiful Islam told Prothom Alo, “The victims came to me about the allegation of irregularities in Sonali Bank. The investigation found this happened due to the nexus between local agents and several corrupt bank officials. There is no way to waive this loan, but Sonali Bank can waive some interest.”

Langdu uapzila parishand chairman Abdul Barek Sarker said most of these people whose names have been used to take loans are poor and landless. Some of them beg for a living, and some earn daily wages.

He instructed the UNO to look into the matter seriously so that none of them face harassment.

* This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna