Sonali in a sticky stew

Tk 2,686cr Loan Scam
Sonali in a sticky stew
Recovery effort stalls as mortgaged land of Hall-Mark overvalued; company claims it is now totally off business
The cash-strapped Sonali Bank is not getting back its money from Hall-Mark Group so soon. To retrieve the money, the quickest way for the state bank is to sell the Hall-Mark assets mortgaged against the loans.
The controversial business group in a letter on Tuesday informed the state-run bank of its inability to return the money in a short time, Tushar Ahmed, general manager (commercial) of Hall-Mark, told The Daily Star yesterday.
“We cannot pay back the loans now as our businesses are totally off,” he said on the expiry of Sonali Bank’s ultimatum to refund in 15 days half of the Tk 2,686 crore loans Hall-Mark had taken on fake documents.
“We want to repay the loans in long-term instalments,” he said.
Hall-Mark paid back more than Tk 400 crore to the bank after the lender stopped disbursing new loans to the company in May this year, said Tushar, who is also a close relative of the company’s owner, Tanvir Mahmud.
According to Hall-Mark, its net liabilities to Sonali Bank now stand at Tk 2,268 crore. Of which, Tk 1,567 crore is funded loan meaning that the amount has been given in cash and the remaining amount is non-funded, mostly in the form of guarantee against letters of credit (LCs).
Hall-Mark mortgaged 47 acres of land of its factory located at Tetuljhora of Hemayetpur in Savar, 30-km off the capital.
According to Sonali Bank, the price of the mortgaged land is at most Tk 600 crore, but the borrower claims it is worth Tk 2,000 crore.
The bank is in a dilemma about what action it would take to recover the loans.
It had not yet filed any case against Hall-Mark, a senior official concerned said, though the company’s response to the ultimatum, which expired on Tuesday, was in the negative.
Sonali Bank is the country’s largest bank in terms of assets, deposits, advances and networks. It used to be a lender in the money market, but became a borrower for the past two years.
In April, Bangladesh Bank observed that the state-run bank was running on inadequate cash. Later, it found that Tk 3,547 crore had been swindled out of the bank by Hall-Mark and five other companies on forged documents.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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