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14 Jun 2021

Brian Wasuna, Nation

Kenya: Inspection of James Finlay tea estates blocked in courts

"Kenya: Scottish Case Against Tea Firm James Finlay Reveals Gaps in Kenyan Laws", 14 June 2021

Two years ago a team of Scottish experts arrived in Kenya ready to inspect in depth four tea estates and factories owned by multinational tea producer James Finlay.

Scotland's Sheriff Personal Injury Court officer Kenneth McGowan had in December 2018 ordered the inspections that were to help him determine a case filed by seven James Finlay workers seeking millions in compensation for injuries suffered on the job.

The inspections were to be done no later than February 2019. But for three years, James Finlay has blocked inspections in Kenya and Scotland, prolonging the dispute...

James Finlay had initially asked the Scottish court to postpone the inspections on account of safety, arguing that the January 15-16, 2019 terror attack on Nairobi's Riverside Drive was a sign that the environment was not conducive. But the firm withdrew the motion.

After some push and pull between the parties' lawyers, the February inspection dates were set.

A few days to the inspections, James Finlay filed a lawsuit challenging them...

On May 21 this year the Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court that allowing implementation of Mr McGowan's orders without involving local courts would amount to an attack on Kenya's sovereignty...

The seven James Finlay workers have now issued a notice that they will move to the Supreme Court, arguing that their situation was not properly grasped by the first two courts that stopped the planned inspections.

The workers argue that James Finlay submitted itself to the jurisdiction of Scottish courts willingly and should not be allowed to hide behind Kenyan courts to prolong the case.

They add that the only thing required of James Finlay is to open up the four factories for inspection, a move that would be neither illegal nor in violation of Kenya's public policy.

Local courts blocking the site visit, they say, could be viewed to be frustrating a case in Scotland, a move that violates cooperation between the two countries...