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Australia’s biggest construction company, CIMIC, accused of not paying foreign workers in the Middle East

Australia’s biggest construction company, CIMIC, stands accused of not paying hundreds of millions of dollars to workers, subcontractors and banks in its Middle East operations in a scandal that has been described as a humanitarian disaster.

CIMIC, formerly called Leighton Holdings, is behind some of Australia’s landmark infrastructure and buildings, including Melbourne’s Westgate Tunnel, the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Sydney’s Star Casino.

Over the years, the media-shy organization has been caught up in a series of high-profile international bribery and corruption scandals, corporate governance issues and shareholder class actions.

Its Middle East business has caused it the most headaches.

“The situation is a humanitarian disaster,” says Fatima Almass Al-Hamad, a judicial guard in Qatar, who was appointed by the court as an administrator of the Qatar business, Leighton Contractors Qatar, which was owned by CIMIC and a local partner.

“With no salary and no health insurance, the workers are struggling to survive and cannot support their families in Qatar or in their home countries,” she told a joint media investigation by 7.30, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

‘How can I get my money?’

Michael Albrecht, an expat from Australia who worked for CIMIC’s group of companies for 17 years, spending 13 years in the Middle East, says he can’t return home until he is paid three months of overdue salary and end-of-service benefits accrued over his time at the joint venture in the Middle East.

“[The Middle East] hasn’t been a healthy business for many years,” he says.

“And now the way out is just to throw everybody on the scrap heap.”

Australian Michael Albrecht has worked for the CIMIC group of companies for 17 years and is currently stuck in the Middle East.(abcnews)

Foreign workers from countries including India and Pakistan are trapped in labor camps, some waiting almost a year for outstanding wages and end-of-service entitlements after being made redundant or resigning.

“How can I get my money? Please. Please, please,” begs a worker who has not been paid for months.

It comes as CIMIC’s major shareholder, Spain’s ACS, lobbed a surprise $1.5 billion takeover bid to take the ASX-listed CIMIC private, which will reduce its disclosure requirements and scrutiny.

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