Tingo Group, an agri-fintech company sued by the SEC in December 2023 for fabricating its financial statements, furloughed nearly all its full-time employees in March 2024.

The furlough, which affected at least fifty employees, came after three months of salary delays, two former employees said. The company promised they would be paid by February 2024.

“I appeal to you to stay, let us fix the system together. This will end, God willing, very soon… I do not want anyone laid off,” the group’s CEO, Dozy Mmobuosi, said in a recording of a January 31 company-wide call obtained by TechCabal. He also promised that the outstanding salaries would be paid in four weeks.

The promises were made despite the company’s legal troubles. In late 2023, the SEC began an investigation into Tingo Group and found that while the company reported having cash and cash equivalent of $461.7 million for the fiscal year 2022, its bank accounts held less than $50.

Weeks after the charges were filed, some Tingo employees were given a pay raise. “Some people received a 200% pay increase, some 300% and others 400%,” an executive at the company said. 

In March, employees were told they would be furloughed until the company could afford to pay them.

“Based on present realities and considering the uncertainties ahead and in order to avoid setting unrealistic expectations, which could have an adverse effect on the well-being of our employees, the company will have to put the employment of all employees on furlough,” an email addressed to the entire Tingo team employees read. The furlough was effective March 1.

A highly placed executive who still works at the company told TechCbal that it was a natural move for the company, considering its financial struggles. 

“The company’s assets have been frozen. Vendors who owe the company payment have taken advantage of the circumstances [to forfeit their obligations,]” he said on a call with TechCabal.

The company did not share any information about the promised salary payments. 

Tingo Group declined to comment on the matter and invited TechCabal to a press event for a product launch. 

According to that invitation, Tingo Foods will launch two new beverages on March 16 at a cocktail event hosted by an affluent traditional ruler, the Ooni of Ife. 

“There was no money to pay outstanding salaries, but there is money to produce drinks?” an ex-employee said in response to the news.

This is the second time Tingo has laid off staff this year. In February 2023, the company abruptly terminated about 40 contract staff while owing them salaries for work done for Tingo Mobile in December 2023 and January 2024. 

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