Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Tuesday ordered authorities in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho to investigate a local seafood company which allegedly owes farmers VND264 billion (US$12.7 million).
The Can Tho People's Committee was asked to report its findings on the Binh An Seafood Joint Stock Company (Bianfishco) and propose solutions to the PM by March 25.
So far there have been no official reports about the company's total debts, which are believed to include up to VND1.5 trillion ($72 million) owed to local banks.
Meanwhile, two HCMC-based companies and a farmer have filed lawsuits against Bianfishco, demanding payment of debts worth nearly VND21 billion ($1 million).
Worse still, the company owes its employees their salaries, and has suspended 1,800 workers, Huynh Van Tuan, chairman of the Labor Union of Can Tho's industrial and processing-export zones, said in Saigon Tiep Thi last week.
However, its director general, Pham Thi Dieu Hien, has left the country for Singapore, reportedly for medical treatment, and appointed her husband, Tran Van Tri, to the position of director general.
But, a report on Tuoi Tre Wednesday quoted Vo Thanh Thong, vice chairman of Can Tho People's Committee as saying that the appointment was illegal, because the company failed to present its board of management's decision on the appointment or inform related agencies of it.
At a press conference last week, Tri promised to sell the company's real-estate assets to pay a portion of the debts owed to local farmers.
According to the company, its operations had been stable for the first nine months of last year before banks pulled the plug on the company.
Meanwhile, analysts say Bianfishco's problems are rooted in gross mismanagement rather than the global economic crisis, high inflation and high interest rates.
They blame the company for unwise investments in real estate, the stock market and short-term projects, as well as purchasing US dollars instead of investing into its core activity seafood processing and export.
Last month before leaving the country, Hien made headlines for organizing a lavish wedding for her son, complete with a procession of luxurious cars and the participation of local celebrities. At that time, Hien had told the media that the extravagant ceremony was aimed at proving that she was not in debt.