International banks sue Argentine soy giant Vicentin over debts

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 9 (Reuters) - A group of international banks have filed a criminal complaint against Argentine soy crusher Vicentin, the company said on Friday, vowing to fight what it called the “baseless” claims being made against it.

The complaint filed by banks including Rabobank, Natixis and Credit Agricole, was filed with a prosecutor’s office in Santa Fe province, where Vicentin is headquartered, the company said.

Vicentin started running out of cash last year, leaving creditors unpaid. The banks accuse the once sprawling food company of having used credits destined for the purchase of grains to finance other businesses. Vicentin denied any wrongdoing in the management of its business.

“Vicentin’s new board of directors will work tirelessly until a solution is found, allowing it to honor its commitments,” the company said in a statement.

The law firm representing the banks in Argentina did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But a statement published on Thursday by a group called the Ad-Hoc Steering Committee of International Creditors of Vicentin said company executives “submitted false financial information to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.”

In June, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said his government would “rescue” Vicentin, once Argentina’s top soymeal exporter, after the family-owned company went broke.

But the following month Fernandez pulled the plug on the planned government takeover, saying the government would not use public resources while the board remained in place.

The takeover plan had been criticized by farmers and industry leaders, who characterized it as meddling in the private sector.

Reporting by Hugh Bronstein and Maximilian Heath, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien