At least seven employees of the debt-ridden Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd have been reportedly detained at three sites in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara states by unpaid local staff, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
An unidentified official at the Indian Embassy in Addis Ababa said it was “closely following up with local Ethiopian authorities and IL&FS management to resolve the issue”. An official in the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that they were looking into the matter.
“Concerns of project termination and absence of senior management from project camps might have triggered panic in local employees and led them to believe confining expat employees might force the organisation to pay their salaries,” the employees wrote in a letter to the Indian and Spanish ambassadors. The letter was also addressed to Ethiopian ministries and a local World Bank representative.
According to the letter, the IL&FS management has cited restrictions imposed by the Reserve Bank of India for its inability to send funds in order to pay salaries. IL&FS and its subsidiaries have a combined debt of more than Rs 91,000 crore and have defaulted on multiple loan repayments in the last couple of months.
“We tried to reason with local employees and tried to assure that salaries will be paid in due course and restricting expat colleagues will not result in what they are trying to achieve,” the employees said in the letter.
Ethiopian revenue ministry spokesperson Addis Yirga and Attorney General Office spokesperson Zinabu Tunu told Bloomberg that they could not comment on the matter.
The son of one the detained employees said his father has been in contact with the Indian Embassy and efforts are under way to pay the Ethiopian staff. “The local Ethiopian workers shut the gates and the local policeman support them,” said Satinder Pal Singh Khokher.