March, 17 2012 09:49:07

Farmers win big ruling against debt ridden seafood firm

CAN THO — A district court in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta city of Can Tho yesterday ordered the Binh An Fisheries Joint Stock Company (Bianfishco) to pay VND18 billion (US$857,000) to two fish farmers who had sued the company for payment owed to them.

The O Mon District People's Court ruled in favour of Nguyen Van Lien and Pham Thi Mai, who said delayed payment by the company, which is mired in debt scandal, had forced a heavy bank interest burden on them.

According to the court, Lien and Mai had signed several contracts selling Tra fish to the company since April last year.

After studying the payment records between the company and the two farmers, judge Nguyen Phi Hung ordered the company to pay Mai VND15.68 billion ($747,000) plus interest of VND2 billion ($95,200). Lien, meanwhile, was to be paid VND467 million ($22,240).

The Binh An Fishery Joint Stock Company, which has been exposed to have piled up huge debts, has announced that it plans to reimburse farmers and clear all its debts by selling its properties.

Pham Thi Dieu Hien, chairwoman of the company had left the country when the company's financial problems were unveiled. She has claimed that she is in Singapore undergoing medical treatment.

She left the country shortly after conducting a lavish wedding for her son. She had said that the wedding was deliberately ostentatious, with an estimated expenditure of at least VND5 billion (US$238,000), in order to show people she was not in debt.

Tran Van Tri, her husband, who has been appointed acting general director of the company in her absence, is said to be trying to solve the problems. Lawyers have opined that the appointment cannot be deemed legal without the consent of the company's management board.

The company owes local farmers about VND264 billion ($12.6 million) in total and is trying to make partial payments to some farmers, according to local reports.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has asked the People's Committee of Can Tho City to look into Bianfishco's debt and operations. He has also ordered the city administration to propose solutions to resolve the issue and send a report to the Government before March 25.

Bianfishco's debts are said to have climbed to trillions of dong, with the firm having to pay interest of nearly VND1 billion ($47,915 million) per day over the last three years. — VNS

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