Industrial giant Formosa Plastics Group (FPG, ????) may face a fine of US$500 million from the Vietnamese government, after investigations revealed toxic wastewater discharged from its steel complex was to blame for mysterious mass fish deaths in early April.

According to local media, government office chief Mai Tien Dung told a press conference Thursday evening that Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp., an offshoot of FPG, was responsible for killing an estimated 70 tons of fish that began washing ashore on the beaches of four central provinces.

The company admitted fault, said the official.

According to the Chinese-language United Daily News, Taiwanese businessmen in Vietnam told reporters that the firm had been pressured into admitting to polluting the waters, in a bid to speed up the official commencement of operations.

Earlier this month, the group confirmed it was forced to postpone the steel mill's scheduled start of operations, as Vietnamese authorities demanded the group pay US$70 million in taxes that it was accused of having failed to pay.

A Taiwanese media report cited sources in Vietnam as saying that the move to chase FPG for the tax may have been politically motivated.

FPG's steel unit in Ha Tinh is among the largest foreign-investment projects in the country, with combined investments exceeding US$10 billion. Taiwan's first overseas steel furnace investment project is seen as particularly significant for the government's "New Southward Policy," aimed at building closer ties with ASEAN countries.

The steel complex was previously the focus of public anger in Vietnam. It was one of the hard-hit targets of anti-Chinese riots in May 2014. The site was looted and partially burned down, resulting in the deaths of four Chinese workers and injuries of more than 150 other Chinese construction workers.

Source: China Post