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BB settling Sonali Bank’s outstanding bills

Bangladesh Bank has started paying unsettled bills that remain pending with the state-owned Sonali Bank, reports UNB.  Officials said the central bank on Thursday made the first payment to the Standard Chartered Bank from the Sonali Bank’s foreign currency (FC) account.  “Bangladesh Bank made a first payment of $112,000 to Standard Chartered Bank from the FC account of Sonali Bank,” AFM Asaduzzaman, general manager of the central bank, told UNB.

Different private banks are owed huge amounts of money by state-owned Sonali Bank on unsettled inland bill purchases (IBP). The problem started following the loan scam of Hallmark Group.  The private banks have long been pursuing the central bank to take necessary measures against Sonali Bank to clear such payments.   As a follow-up move, the Bangladesh Bank had issued some directives to Sonali Bank Ltd (SBL) in September 2013 to settle such IBPs.

But despite the directives, Sonali Bank management could not resolve the problem. Finally, the central bank intervened and started making payments to different banks against their unsettled IPBs pending with Sonali Bank, said a central bank official.   Earlier, the BB also issued directives to banks concerned, the Association of Bankers Bangladesh (ABB), and the Bangladesh Foreign Exchange Dealer’s Association (BAFEDA) for settlement of IBPs.

According to BB, the Hall-Mark Group swindled more than Tk 2,600 crore by selling inland letters of credit (ILC) — accepted by Sonali Bank’s Ruposhi Bangla Hotel branch — to other banks, mostly the private ones.  A number of banks on several occasions had accepted foreign and local bills against letters of credit, but did not pay the dues of other banks on time.  The amount of such unpaid bills stood at $363 million or Tk 2,976 crore, as of June 30 2012.

Of the overdue bills, around Tk 700 crore is Hall-Mark Group’s, a BB official said.  Banks say they bought Hall-Mark Group’s bills based on Sonali’s acceptance of them.

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