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23 Feb 2024

Kenya: Del Monte accused of bribing witnesses to cover-up alleged killing of locals by company guards; company comments

"Bitter Fruit: Kenyans Sue Pineapple Producer for Alleged Torture and Murder"

First, they found his shoes. Then they spotted another man’s body, before finally discovering Francis Kilule floating dead and naked in the river. His older brother, Benjamin, had been looking forward to spending Christmas with him at their home in Thika, an hour northeast of Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. They were going to plan Francis’ upcoming wedding. But on December 21, Francis went missing. Benjamin, alongside family and friends, searched agonizingly for days. On Christmas eve, they found his body on the Fresh Del Monte pineapple plantation...

At the end of December, a civil claim was filed against Fresh Del Monte by a group of human rights organisations on behalf of 10 individuals, who alleged they were stabbed, stoned, tortured and raped by the company’s guards... The civil case alleges that individuals trespassing through “have been found, beaten, tortured, killed and drowned in dams within Del Monte.” According to plaintiffs, the violence is due to the company’s failure “to train the guards they employ and deploy to act in lawful methods while conducting security enforcement operations.”... The company spokesperson told OCCRP that Kenyan authorities had investigated the November and December cases and found “no foul play on Del Monte’s part.”

In a recent investigation by the Guardian and The Bureau for Investigative Journalism, representatives of Del Monte Kenya were accused in interviews and affidavits of offering bribes to witnesses to cover up the circumstances in which Francis and the other men were killed. “We do not bribe. We do not instruct our guards to beat,” the Del Monte spokesperson told OCCRP in response to the allegations. “We believe that these misleading headlines are part of a disinformation campaign being led by interested parties with close connections to the media.”