An angry businessman stole the stage at a press briefing organized by Canadian gold miner Besra Vietnam on Thursday morning in the central Quang Nam province to demand the gold producer to pay him back.
Le Dinh Thuc, director of the Truong Xuan fuel company which is based in the town of Tam Ky, the capital city of Quang Nan, interrupted a conversation between Besra leaders, tax officials and members of the press to demand VND 6.6 billion (US$311,000).
Thuc said the companies that manage Bersa's two mines, Phuoc Son and Bong Mieu, owed him VND 5.4 billion and VND 1.1 billion, respectively.
Thuc demanded the company present an immediate payment scheme in the event that “the two companies are closed.”
Besra president David Seton replied that the case remained before a court and refused to argue the matter in a public forum. Seton further accused Truong Xuan of perpetrating a fraud that caused “the closure of the gold companies today.”
“That's pure libel. We will sue Besra for that,” said Thuc just before being escorted out of the press briefing by Besra's security guards.
The briefing concluded soon afterward, at which point Seton asked to formally withdraw accusations he'd made against the press of erroneous reporting.
Seton had told reporters that members of the media had run with unconfirmed reports from individuals and organizations, adding that the press was responsible to the laborers who have been unable to get back to work as planned.
Besra president David Seton (L) during a press briefing on Thursday morning.
Seton's retraction came after reporters at the briefing strongly challenged those accusations, noting that everything reported about Besra was provided by the authorities.
Deputy Head of the Quang Nam Tax Department Luong Dinh Duong told reporters that the office had coddled the gold producer by giving it an eight month extension to pay its extensive arrears.
The two gold mines have declined to pay, Duong said, adding that Besra's total arrears make up 38 percent (VND768 billion--$36.2 million) of the combined debt owed by the province’s 4,000 companies.
Duong said tax authorities and Besra have failed to reach an agreement about another 24-month extension; Seton claimed their latest meeting "had a good result."
Meanwhile, the company president continued to report difficulties at both gold mines due to a dip in global gold prices and a string of unexpected natural disasters. The company's finances were frozen in April by the Quang Nam tax department due to VND300 billion in arrears.
The Bong Mieu gold mine is located in Phu Ninh District.
The Phuoc Son site in Phuoc Son District is considered the largest gold mine in Vietnam.