The fruit plantation company Fresh Del Monte Kenya, has had a lawsuit filed against them by human rights organisations on behalf of those who have suffered from the killings and abuse that have taken place at the farm. An investigation was opened up in December by Kenyan police, looking into the suspected murders of four men that had occurred over Christmas. Now the disgraced Del Monte is being accused of attempting to bribe witnesses to cover their tracks.
The lawsuit follows the events that occurred on December 21, when a group of around 20 attempted to steal pineapples from the 10,000-acre farm - resulting in four deaths. One of the victims, Bernard Uutua, who was 22 years old, was found in a river close to the farm, with bruises on his body. Del Monte stated that the thieves all went into the river to hide from security, but Bernard’s mother insists he wouldn’t have done so since he could not swim.
The three other victims Francis Miumi, Mbae Murumbi and another named ‘Mkisii’ bodies’ were also recovered. Witnesses have claimed that security guards beat the victims to death, and then disposed of the bodies, but the company insists CCTV footage shows there was “no foul play,” but has yet to release the tapes.
The Guardian and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found claims from villagers surrounding the property located near Nairobi of violence inflicted by Del Monte’s security guards in their investigation, dating back to 2019. This is not the first time dead bodies have been recovered from this plantation, and there are other accusations of rape and assault spanning well over a decade. Back in 2013, 27-year-old Saidi Ngotho Ndungu was found in a dam near the area. Then in 2019, Bernard Murigi was found beaten to death on the side of the road leading to the property.
In 2022, Stephen Thuo Nyoike was also found dead on the roadside with the autopsy report revealing his death was caused by “pressure to the neck due to ligature strangulation.” That same year, John Rui Karia collapsed whilst serving time in prison for stealing Del Monte fruit, due to the blunt force trauma inflicted on him by security guards, he succumbed to his injuries shortly after.
In June 2023, Fresh Del Monte announced it would be launching an investigation into Karia and Nyoike’s deaths, which were being taken seriously. However, it is now being said that the company is attempting to bribe people with job offers and money to tell Del Monte’s version of events to the courts. Fresh Del Monte supplies most British supermarkets with produce like Tesco and Sainsbury’s and has global sales amounting to $4 billion. Tesco announced last year, “We are shocked and appalled to learn of these allegations on Del Monte’s Thika farm in Kenya. We have therefore taken the decision to immediately suspend Del Monte fruit products sourced from this farm pending a thorough and credible investigation into these claims.”
Amidst the findings from journalistic investigations, Fresh Del Monte has yet to comment. The Kenyan law firm, Leigh Day, is seeking compensation from Del Monte on behalf of the villagers who live near the farm. Samir Inamdar, a lawyer for the company argued that Fresh Del Monte is “incorporated in George Town, Cayman Islands outside the jurisdiction of this honourable court,” meaning that since the Kenyan plantation is just an extension, the whole company can’t be sued by Kenyan officials. With the very serious accusations that have come out recently, the company’s trust has been lost by many, with many calling for companies to cut ties with them.
Edited by Chloe Mansola
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