Bangladesh government would allow controversial Hallmark Group to get loans if it pays back the amount it swindled six years back from Sonali Bank in the name of loans, finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said on Wednesday.

‘The group would have to pay back loan it swindled from Sonali Bank to be qualified again as a borrower,’ he said as he was asked to comment on the outcome of the meeting he held with the central bank and officials of Financial Institutions Division at the finance ministry.

Little known Hallmark hogged headlines of the national newspapers after misappropriating Tk 3,547 crore from Sonali Bank in 2013.

Sonali Bank was yet to recover a single penny from the group.

Hallmark Group chairman Jasmine Islam, also the wife of group managing director Tanvir Mahmud, is now in jail with the cases filed by Anti-Corruption Commission.

Mustafa Kamal held the meeting on Hallmark after the group applied for unfreezing one of its bank accounts with deposit of Tk 54 crore which was rejected by the financial institutions division in August.

The group, according to FID officials, wanted to utilise the frozen fund for taking part in the current bad loan rescheduling scheme.

Immediate past finance minister AMA Muhith had also rejected almost similar plea by the group, said the officials.   

Mustafa Kamal said he wanted Hallmark to pay back the loan and resume business as it was not easy to create new businessmen.

Answering a question about arrangement of loan return, Mustafa Kmal said the process would be made public in time. He said the businessman always keep emergency fund for ‘rainy days’.

Last month, the minister announced that Bismillah Group that embezzled Tk 1,200 crore wanted to resume business by rescheduling its bad loans with Janata Bank.   

Mustafa Kamal once again criticised the practice by the local banks for charging compound rate on interest saying that the system squeezes the scope for businessmen to pay back bank debt in their lifetime.

He noted that the government should aware of the matter much earlier.

Answering a question if the banks do not comply with the government directive on simple interest rate, he said the government would close down those banks or would merge those with others banks.

As the government provided them licences, it preserved the right to revoke those, he said.

He hoped that he could completely change the outlook of the country’s ailing financial sector by implementing the steps they had taken recently.

He iterated that the implementation process was slowed down because of involvement of court into the matter.

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