The Surinam state company Food and Agriculture Industries (FAI) has submitted claims totalling $45.1 million to Hein Deprez. The Suriname banana plantations were owned from 2014 until the end of 2020 by The Fruit Farm Group, the Belgian-Dutch company owned by Flemish trader Hein Deprez, which took over the plantations from the Bouterse regime. FAI is the second largest employer in Suriname, after the Surinam government.
In November last year, the Surinam state took over FAI's Surinam plantations from The Fruit Farm Group for a symbolic sum. The Dutch management consultant and crisis manager Theo Terdu (photo) takes care of the interests of the Surinam state company, which has held Hein Deprez primarily liable. He has also held De Weide Blik liable, Deprez's holding company, which also holds his shares in Greenyard. According to the Surinamese, Deprez and his companies are guilty of mismanagement and unlawful actions in the management of large Surinam banana plantations.
According to Terdu, the deeper he digs into the file, the more shocking things he comes across. "A year before Deprez left FAI, the entire plantation was deliberately neglected, by not applying any fertiliser, among other things. Moreover, the person appointed by Deprez to manage the plantation left Suriname like a thief in the night with an excuse. According to the FAI, everything seems to have been a premeditated plan, which has put the FAI in a very awkward position. The government was faced with the choice of letting the company go bankrupt with 1,200 people losing their salary or coming to the rescue of the company and taking over the shares."
"Furthermore, the price level that was used is very remarkable. Before Deprez took over the company, a certain price level was charged. With Deprez at the helm, that price suddenly halved. For FAI this is a reason to call in a specialised agency to investigate whether fraudulent actions have been carried out, which are illegal under criminal law. If it turns out that there has been fraudulent action, I will immediately report this to the Justice Department in the Netherlands, Belgium and in Suriname," said Terdu.
"My client wants proper compensation for the damage suffered. I am not under the illusion that we will get the full amount, but when I see how Deprez deals with other creditors of The Fruit Farm Group, he tries to send the bondholders home with a tip. This is not the first time, there is a pattern, as demonstrated by the takeover of Hartman in Sexbierum."
In a response Greenyard states "that The Fruit Farm Group is a valued supplier of Greenyard, but for less than one % of our turnover. Otherwise, this is a totally separate company from Greenyard, and Greenyard has no knowledge of any business that occurred."