Vietnam seafood company mired in $57.7 mln debt scandal

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A seafood company in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho has been assessed to face debts totaling VND1.2 trillion (US$57.7 million), after its high-profile chief fled the country, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Saturday.

The debts of Binh An Seafood Joint Stock Company (Bianfishco) include bank loans and debts to local farmers, the newspaper quoted Vo Thanh Hung, who headed the team calculating the company's debts, as saying.

Hung said they will advise the city's People's Committee to hold a press conference to announce the debts next week, and submit a detailed report to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung by March 25 as earlier ordered by the PM.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the O Mon District's People's Court ordered Bianfishco to pay a total of over VND18 billion ($865,000) to two farmers

The same day, the court also said that three companies, including two based in Ho Chi Minh City, have filed lawsuits asking the company to pay them a total of over VND7 billion ($336,000) that it owes them for contracted services like forwarding. 

Earlier last week, the team concluded that the company owes VND261 billion ($12.5 million) to local farmers, but the farmers agreed to let it delay payment until after this month after being persuaded by the city People's Committee, a report on VnExpress said.

At a press conference on March 7, Tran Van Tri, representative of the company, promised to sell the company's real-estate assets to pay a portion of the debts owed to local farmers.

Tri was appointed to the position of director general by his wife, Pham Thi Dieu Hien, before she left the country for Singapore, reportedly for medical treatment. But later, local authorities dismissed the appointment, saying it was illegal.

According to Bianfishco, its operations had been stable for the first nine months of last year before banks pulled the plug on the company.


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Meanwhile, analysts say the company'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.

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