Appellate court upholds ruling against debt-ridden Vietnamese firm

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An appeal court in the Mekong Delta City of Can Tho Friday ordered a debt-ridden seafood company to pay a total of nearly VND18 billion (US$863,000) to two local farmers, Vietnamnet reported.

The sum that the Binh An Seafood Joint Stock Company (Bianfishco) owes Nguyen Van Lien and Pham Thi Mai is part of its debts to local farmers and banks which total over VND1.27 trillion ($61.4 million).

According to the news website, the Can Tho People's Court upheld the O Mon District's People's Court verdict at the first trial on March 16, which required Bianfishco to pay its debts to farmers, with interest estimated to be over VND2.5 billion ($112,000).

The appeal was held at the request of Bianfishco, which argued that the interest rates should have been 1 percent, as the case was a civic dispute, not a commercial dispute with the rate of 1.75 percent as the original court concluded.

However, lawyer Nguyen Truong Thanh, representative of the farmers, accused the company of trying to delay the payment.

After the debts were exposed in March, the company froze its operations, while farmers asked the local court to declare it bankrupt as it had lost its creditworthiness.

However, Bianfishco resumed operations early this month, saying that it would not choose bankruptcy as a solution to its problems. It also said that the Ministry of Finance's Debt and Asset Trading Corporation and other partners planned to buy its debts and invest in the company.

Bianfishco has sold its assets and paid part of its debts. As of the end of April, its debts to farmers decreased to nearly VND220 billion ($10.5 million) and bank debts went down to some VND350 billion ($16.7 million), Vietnamnet quoted Bianfishco Director General Tran Van Tri as saying.

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Tri was assigned to the position of the director general by his wife Pham Thi Dieu Hien, after the latter left Vietnam, allegedly for medical treatment in the US.

On February 19, Hien made media headlines for organizing a lavish wedding for her son, complete with a lineup of luxurious cars and celebrities. She told the media then that the extravagant ceremony was intended to prove that she was not in debt.

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