Royal tussle continues: ‘Queen’ insists she has rights in coffee empire

By Thi Ha   February 18, 2020 | 06:27 pm PT
Royal tussle continues: ‘Queen’ insists she has rights in coffee empire
Le Hoang Diep Thao at her divorce hearing last March. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen.
Le Hoang Diep Thao, the ex-wife of Trung Nguyen CEO, has questioned the group’s announcement Tuesday that she’s no longer its shareholder.

Trung Nguyen Group (TNG) CEO Dang Le Nguyen Vu, Thao’s ex-husband, with whom she ran the Trung Nguyen empire, now holds all shares in the coffee giant and its subsidiaries, and has full control of the group, TNG said in its statement.

He has also completed a VND1.19 trillion ($51.1 million) "difference in assets" payment to Thao following their divorce ruling on December 5 last year, the group said.

But in a statement issued the same afternoon, Thao, former deputy director of the group, accused TNG of having unilaterally and unlawfully removed her from their list of shareholders.  

"Nothing has changed. I still have all my legal rights as a shareholder in Trung Nguyen," she said.

Thao also argued that on January 10, the Supreme People's Procuracy had sent a written request to the Ho Chi Minh City Civil Judgment Execution Department to "postpone execution" of her divorce ruling made by the HCMC Appellate Court.

This was before Vu made his payment of the court-mandated VND1.19 trillion ($51.1 million) to the City Civil Judgment Execution Department on January 13, she said.

However, the department went ahead with the execution on the grounds that Vu had already fulfilled his obligations in accordance with the judgment in question, and notified the Supreme People’s Procuracy of its action on January 16.

According to Thao, the General Department of Civil Judgment Execution has asked the Director of the HCMC Civil Judgment Execution Department to report on the issue before February 20.

They are still waiting for results and will only act based on the highest judicial decision, she said.

Vu and Thao, who got married in 1998, differed on how the group, which had developed one of the biggest brands in the country, should be run. In 2015, Thao filed for divorce.

In March, the court of first instance had ruled that the stocks and cash of TNG shared by Vu and Thao, as well as the couple's cash deposits, would be split 60:40 in Vu’s favor.

Both Thao and Vu had appealed against the entire verdict. The HCMC People’s Appellate Court on December 5 quashed both appeals, finalized the divorce, and upheld the previous judgment. 

Vu will receive all of his and Thao’s stocks in the Trung Nguyen Group, estimated at over VND5.7 trillion ($244.74 million), and have sole management rights over the Trung Nguyen coffee empire, the court had ruled.

Vu would also receive six properties worth VND350 billion ($15.03 million) that were jointly owned by the couple, while Thao would get the remaining seven worth over VND376 billion ($16.48 million).

Thao would also receive cash and cash equivalents, gold and foreign currency belonging to TNG that have been deposited at banks totaling VND1.76 trillion ($75.57 million). Vu was liable to pay the difference in assets to Thao, valued at VND1.22 trillion ($52.38 million), the court had ruled.

Trung Nguyen Group, founded in 2006, is the leading coffee brand in Vietnam. The group began experiencing difficulties six years ago, when Vu and Thao fell out on how the corporation should be run.

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