Bengaluru: Infosys Ltd’s ambitious plan of hiring 10,000 American workers in the US over the next few years, is facing its first challenge as Indiana Hotel Equities Llc, a Michigan-based firm, in a lawsuit, alleged tortious interference by the Bengaluru-based software giant and its former chief executive officer (CEO) Vishal Sikka. Indiana Hotel’s charges include conspiracy by Infosys, along with the Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA), to remove Indiana Hotel Equities as a tenant in order to secure occupancy to build its work centre.

Indiana Hotel Equities, a privately held partnership firm, in a lawsuit filed on 11 July, alleged that Indianapolis Airport Authority, Infosys and Sikka, along with other Indiana government officials, wrongfully removed Indiana Hotel Equities as a tenant from a leased property owned by the Indianapolis Airport Authority. Indiana Hotel Equities itself filed bankruptcy proceedings under chapter 11 on 10 April.

In April last year, Infosys first announced its plan to hire up to 3,000 people by 2023 in Indianapolis and started building and redeveloping a 70-acre commercial plot of land outside the terminal of Indianapolis International Airport. The terminal is no longer used, but the commercial land has a 257-room hotel, which is at the centre of dispute.

“Unknown to IHE (Indiana Hotel Equities)…the Indiana Government Employees sought to pre-textually terminate the Lease for purpose of housing the tech giant—Infosys. Upon information and belief, one of the Indiana employees had a personal relationship with Infosys’s then-CEO Sikka, and is reasonably believed to have initiated the communications and negotiations between Infosys and the Indiana employees," reads a statement from the 157-page complaint filed by Indiana Hotel Equities’s counsel O’Reilly Rancilio P.C.

Mint has reviewed a copy of the complaint.

“IAA (Indianapolis Airport Authority), Infosys, Sikka and government officials for the State of Indiana worked in concert to accomplish their unlawful purpose to forcibly remove IHE from the Property and tortuously interfere with IHE’s contracts with IAA and IHV (Indiana Hotel Ventures LLC). Infosys and Sikka’s participation in this civil conspiracy violated the general duty to not interfere with another’s reasonable business expectations and contracts with third persons. Infosys and Sikka knew of the existence of both the Lease and Management Agreement. Despite this knowledge, Infosys and Sikka negotiated with the IAA and other employees of the State of Indiana for purposes of conveying the subject property to Infosys as a campus attached to the innovation hub to be built at the closed terminal."

The Indianapolis centre is one of the four hubs India’s second largest information technology (IT) outsourcing firm plans to open. The other three are in Raleigh, North Carolina, Providence, Rhode Island and in Hartford, Connecticut.

A spokesperson for Indianapolis Airport Authority said it does not comment on pending legal cases.

“The claims alleged in this lawsuit are meritless. Infosys will defend itself vigorously in court," said a spokeswoman for Infosys.

An email sent to Sikka seeking comment went unanswered.

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