The Chinese company Joyvio, owner of an Australian seafood salmon farm – the sector’s fifth largest in Chile – has opened a legal battle against the brand’s previous owner, Chilean businessman Isidro Quiroga. The transnational company is accused of concealing a series of environmental violations and non-compliance with production caps during the acquisition in 2019. The Asians requested an international arbitration process through the Arbitration and Mediation Center of the Santiago Chamber of Commerce (CCS). They are seeking to return the value the company paid, $921 million, and another $300 million in damages. Quiroga’s lawyers defended that Joyvio knew about the overproduction.
The current owners of Australia deplore the “policy of systematic over-production of salmon which was established and implemented by the previous management and controller”. The company self-reported last November to the environmental watchdog (SMA) for breaches of production licenses at 33 salmon fattening centers – more than a third of the company’s 96 total franchises – in the southern regions of the Aisne. and Magallanes between 2016 and 2022. These practices have resulted in overproduction of more than 80,000 tons of salmon, according to the company itself.
“The new owners of Australis Seafoods are the victims of this regulatory breach, as well as fraud and other serious crimes that will be disclosed in the various complaints,” read a statement released by the company this week. He adds: “As stated in the purchase and sale documents signed between the parties, the seller has always declared that the Australians have complied with the environmental regulations, which turned out to be false and part deception.”
Kirioja, for his part, issued a statement defending that he had always acted “in good faith”. He wrote, “I will defend my good name, that of my family and that of my collaborators to the last consequences, and exercise the corresponding civil and criminal proceedings against the persons who participated in this heinous campaign.” He also accused the Chinese company of being “grossly indebted” to buy Astralis, based on return expectations that “would have been impossible to achieve” for any company.
On Monday, SMA filed charges against the salmon farm for violating environmental permits at nine centers. The Australians risk fines of nearly $70 million, an amount that could be reduced because they previously reported themselves.
Joyvio belongs to the Chinese holding company Legend, which is also an owner of tech giant Lenovo. The accusation brought by him against Inversiones Benjamín, Inversiones Ruiseñor Dos and Inversiones Arlequín, companies associated with Quiroga, is part of the contract signed between the two parties, in which they agreed that international arbitration would be called in the event of discrepancies in which three arbitrators would participate: one chosen by each party and a third party, which cannot be Chilean or Chinese, to be chosen by both. The Asians chose Attorney Andrés Gana and Quiroga Ramón Cifuentes.
A series of emails between 2021 and 2022 between senior Australis Salmon executives with Chinese board members revealed that the company’s new owners not only knew they were producing higher fish than allowed, but also allowed it to be higher.
One of the lawyers representing the Chinese company Joyvio is Jorge Bofill, who told the paper Mercury that the evidence found in the case is “very much and very convincing”. “In my experience, which has been extensive at this point, the evidence is more than sufficient to formalize Isidoro Quiroga in the investigation. After the sale of two Australians residing in England, he stated in Chile, this would lead to a request for his extradition to try the case in Chile”.
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