Ethiopia : 7 Indian employees held hostage

IL&FS rocked financial markets after it began missing debt payments in late August. Photo : RR

NEWSROOM (ADV) – The foreign ministry is investigating claims by expatriates in Ethiopia who say they are being held hostage by local staff that haven’t been paid after the shadow lender Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd. began defaulting on $12.6 billion in debt.

Seven Indian workers from infrastructure financing firm IL&FS, which rocked financial markets after it began missing debt payments in late August, have been detained since Nov. 25 at three sites in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara states by unpaid local staff, according to an emailed letter from the employees.

They said the possible termination of some road projects being built by Indian and Spanish joint ventures may have triggered local employees to panic. The employees said police and officials are taking the side of locals against the expatriate staff and that they were caught in the “middle of corporate disagreements, blame games and bureaucratic issues.”

Oromia’s police commissioner general, Alemayehu Ejigu, the state’s deputy spokesman Deressa Terefe, and Amhara state’s spokesman Nigusu Tillahun didn’t immediately respond to two calls and two text messages.

An official at the Indian embassy in the capital Addis Ababa said it was “closely following up with local Ethiopian authorities and IL&FS management to resolve the issue,” while a separate official in the foreign ministry in New Delhi confirmed they were looking into the matter. A spokesman for IL&FS declined to comment.

“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 organization to pay their salaries,” the employees wrote in a letter addressed to the Indian and Spanish ambassadors, as well as a number of Ethiopian ministries and the local World Bank representative.

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