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LAWSUIT

Time runs out for Nestlé ‘murder’ lawsuit

Swiss prosecutors have closed a lawsuit by a Colombian woman accusing Swiss food giant Nestlé of indirect responsibility for the murder of her union-worker husband because it happened too long ago.

Time runs out for Nestlé 'murder' lawsuit
Photo: AFP

The woman had filed her suit on March 5th 2012, charging that Nestlé and its leadership were indirectly responsible for the murder of her husband, Luciano Romero, in September 2005 by paramilitary forces in Valledupar, Colombia.

Romero, a trade unionist who had long worked for Cicolac, a subsidiary of Nestlé in Colombia, had left the company several years before he was killed after his bosses accused him of having ties to the guerrilla fighters in the country.
   
Several paramilitary members were sentenced for the killing, but one of 
them testified that the assassination had been ordered and financed by several companies, including Cicolac.
   
Romero's widow Gladys charged that Nestlé was aware of its Colombian 
subsidiary's actions and that it did not take the necessary measures to protect her husband.
   
However, prosecutors in the southwestern Swiss canton of Vaud, where Nestlé is based, said in a 
statement on Thursday they had determined on May 1st that the statute of limitations had been exceeded and that it was therefore not possible to proceed with the case.
   
"After examining the case, the prosecution has determined that no criminal 
prosecution is possible, since the period of prescription for determining any possible instance of negligent manslaughter is passed at this time, due to the time period that has lapsed since the Colombian union worker's death," the
statement said.
   
Franz Moos, the deputy prosecutor in the canton, told AFP that the statute 
of limitation for such cases was seven years, and that the period in this case had therefore ended last September.
   
Vaud prosecutors had thus decided to close the case "without considering 
the basic issues raised in the accusations brought by the plaintiff against the Nestlé leadership," Moos said.
   
In Switzerland, negligent manslaughter carries a penalty of up to three 
years behind bars or a fine.
   
Nestlé chairman and former chief executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who was 
one of four Nestlé executives mentioned by name in the lawsuit, has previously denied that his company bore any responsibility for Romero's death.
   
In a letter sent last year to the Colombian union supporting Romero's 
widow's case, he described the accusations against the company as "terrible and false."
   
The plaintiff now has the option of appealing the decision to drop her case 
to the Vaud appeals court, and, if she is still not satisfied, of taking the case before Switzerland's highest court, which would have the final say in the matter.

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NESTLE

‘Unlimited resources’: Switzerland’s Nestle goes vegan

Swiss food giant Nestle, which has made billions with dairy products, said Monday it will host start-ups that want to develop vegetarian alternatives.

'Unlimited resources': Switzerland's Nestle goes vegan
Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Nestle could thus find itself at the forefront of a sector that has strong growth potential, an analyst commented.

It plans to open its research and development (R&D) centre in Konolfingen, Switzerland to “start-ups, students and scientists” a statement said.

In addition to testing sustainable dairy products, the group plans to encourage work on plant-based dairy alternatives, it added.

Chief executive Mark Schneider was quoted as saying that “innovation in milk products and plant-based dairy alternatives is core to Nestle's portfolio strategy.”

The group unveiled a vegetable-based milk that had already been developed with the process, and technical director Stefan Palzer told AFP it planned to focus on 100-200 such projects a year.

Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, noted that while Nestle had missed some consumer trends in the past, it has now “taken something of a lead in the plant-based alternative market for food”.

And “given its pretty much unlimited resources, Nestle is going to come out one of the winners in the space,” Cox forecast in an e-mail.

Nestle said that “internal, external and mixed teams” would work at the R&D centre over six-month periods.

Nestle would provide “expertise and key equipment such as small to medium-scale production equipment to facilitate the rapid upscaling of products for a test launch in a retail environment,” it added.

The Swiss food giant has long been known for its dairy products, but faced a boycott in the 1970s for allegedly discouraging mothers in developing countries from breastfeeding even though it was cheaper and more nutritious than powdered formula.

On Monday, the group's statement also underscored that the research initiative was part of its commitment to help fight global warming.

“As a company, we have set ambitious climate goals. This is part of our promise to develop products that are good for you and good for the planet,” it said.

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