A multi-national flower firm saddled with financial problems has accused an Indian journalist for defamation and thus seeks multi-billion shillings compensation. Karuturi Global Limited (KGL), which has presence in Kenya, accuses Ms Keya Acharya, the president of Forum of Environmental Journalists in India (FEJI) of malicious intent, collusion, and libel Its lawyers have slapped her with a $20 million compensation demand. The article published by published by international news agency, Inter Press Service (IPS), highlights Karuturi Global Ltd’s legal, financial, tax, labour and land problems in areas in operates. According to Ms Acharya, the article discusses the impact of Karuturi’s operations in Kenya and Ethiopia on the Indian rose production industry in India and Africa.
Karuturi Global Ltd is has its headquarters in Bangalore, India. The company’s founder and managing director Sai Rama Krishna Karuturi seeks Acharya and IPS to tender unconditional apology for the published statements and refrain from further publishing of such articles, and pay Sh884 million for loss of reputation he has suffered from the published article and a further Sh884 million for the mental agony it caused. The article, according to Karuturi’s lawyers claimed that the MNC was tangled in a web of bankruptcy, violation of labour and laws in Kenya and neighboring Ethiopia where it controls 400,000 hectares of land. “The article false, frivolous and vexatious published with a view to cause damage by way of defamation to the image and reputation of (Karuturi), which was actuated with the malice intent on your part so as to calculatedly cause irretrievable harm and damage to the reputation, name, fame, and standing in the society of the (company) … which he has painstakingly built over the years.”
Acharya and IPs have up to this month to respond or face court. Karuturi Global claims to be the world leader in production of cut roses with operations spread across Ethiopia, Kenya and India. “With an area of over 292 hectares under Greenhouse cultivation, we annually produce around 555 million stems of quality cut roses, essentially for exports to high-value market,” the company says in its website. Reports last February indicated that the Kenyan subsidiary had been placed under receivership over a Sh400 million debt owed to a number of lenders, including CfC Stanbic Bank. Ian Small was appointed the receiver manager. But four months later, the High Court stopped the intended sale pending a case challenging it. Surya Holdings and RHEA Holdings Limited — Karuturi’s sister companies — moved to court arguing that they own all assets and land on which Karuturi does its farming, which were pledged as security for CfC’s Sh383 million loan. The assets are also used as collateral for another Sh3.4 billion loan owed to India’s ICICI Bank, according to the Daily Nation reports of June 11, 2014.