Employees of the failed Indochine Insurance Co faced off with police who tried to seize assets at the company’s Phnom Penh head office Monday, insisting the government first make a written pledge to pay their lost salaries.
At least six staff at the office resisted Finance Ministry orders that they turn over 17 computers, a photocopier and other equipment as part of Indochine’s liquidation. After hours of discussion, they eventually allowed the ministry to take the equipment.
“We want a written notice from the ministry that they will pay staff in a certain amount of time,” said Pen Serey, Indochine’s former administrative director.
Toting a letter from the Labor Ministry, the employees said they are entitled to three months’ compensation in accordance with the labor law. Finance Ministry officials at the scene said Indochine staff will be compensated after the liquidation.The 55 staff at Indochine, as well as thousands of policyholders, local companies and NGOs are at risk of losing money from Indochine’s closure.
The company claimed a portfolio of some 30,000 policies before the government froze its bank accounts and forced its closure.
On Friday, a liquidator hired by the ministry announced that compensation for canceled policies, and about 200 outstanding insurance claims, were in doubt. Most of the company’s cash is believed to be in the possession of Indochine founder and director Philippe Lenain, who made a series of large cash withdrawals before leaving Cambodia in October, the liquidator said.
Lenain is holding more than $200,000 in premiums collected after the ministry moved to close Indochine, the liquidator added.
The liquidator, Bangkok-based Baker Tilly group, has struggled to recover Indochine’s assets, partly because Lenain instructed staff to take possession of computers, laser printers and vehicles as compensation for missing pay in October.