Sonali Bank scam may create trust crisis
The Tk 3,547 crore-scam in Sonali Bank may create a trust crisis in the banking industry, causing sufferings to businesses in settlement of letters of credit and inland bill purchasing (IBP).
“We'll lose Tk 2 crore in two weeks if banks continue to delay LC settlement,” said Hasanuzzaman Tito, managing director of Pacific Group that is engaged in jute export.
Tito has an account with a private commercial bank that has become extra-cautious in accepting LC of state-owned Sonali Bank, he told The Daily Star yesterday.
Similarly, businesses are facing trouble with the IBP by banks. Banks buy these bills from businesses, particularly exporters, against LC for exports, provided that another bank has given acceptance to these bills.
The banks also practise the system in domestic business, meaning a seller of goods can sell his documents to a bank at a discounted price to meet his demand for cash. Here also, another bank has to give acceptance to these bills.
A central bank inspection recently unearthed the scam in Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch.
Most of the Tk 3,547 crore was pocketed by textile company Hall-Mark Group in the name of selling export documents to the bank.
Sonali Bank's Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch gave acceptance to the bills of Hall-Mark Group and many other banks bought these bills seeing the acceptance of Sonali Bank.
Later, investigation found that bank officials -- from top to the branch level -- were engaged in the wrongdoing.
Agrani and Janata, two other state-owned banks, also bought some such fake bills of Hall-Mark Group.
“We've become cautious and have strengthened our monitoring after the scam,” said Helal Ahmed Chowdhury, managing director of Pubali Bank.
The recent delay in IBP by banks also came to the central bank's notice.
“We came to know that the real exporters and suppliers are in trouble with the IBP issue,” said a Bangladesh Bank statement yesterday.
The BB cautioned the banks, saying that no genuine exporters or suppliers should face unnecessary delay in settling their IBPs with the banks.
It said banks are well equipped with modern technologies and can check and cross-check a party's documents easily. Branches of banks can take approval of their respective banks' head offices easily by using phone, fax, email or other technologies, said the BB.
The central bank is monitoring LC and IBP settlements by scheduled banks and if it finds that any bank is involved in harassment of genuine customers, it will go for actions.