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Camellia Plc - Response to UK media reports on Kakuzi Plc

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Camellia Plc (the "Company")

Response to UK media reports on Kakuzi Plc

An article published on 11 October 2020 by UK newspaper the Sunday Times highlighted that Camellia Plc (the "Company") is facing legal claims relating to allegations against employees of one of its investee companies in Kenya: Kakuzi Plc. These claims have been brought on a no-win no-fee basis by UK law firm Leigh Day in the UK. Leigh Day is not licensed to practice law in Kenya. 

Camellia purchased a 50.7% stake in Kakuzi Plc in the mid-1990s. Kakuzi is a Kenyan agricultural company employing around 3,000 Kenyans and has been trading on the Nairobi Securities Exchange for over 50 years. It is managed by its own board of directors on behalf of its 1,300 shareholders, most of whom are Kenyan.

Further to the update provided on 8 October 2020, and in other announcements to the market this year, Camellia wishes to reiterate that it takes these complaints against its foreign operations extremely seriously. The welfare of people working across the Group and their communities is of vital importance. This is reflected in the Company's values, culture, and by the examples presented in its ESG report: Custodianship which can be found on Camellia's website. 

Camellia understands that the allegations are being investigated by Kakuzi to ensure wrongdoing can be addressed and internal safeguarding procedures improved, if necessary.  However, Kakuzi has also advised its shareholders, including Camellia, in a statement issued on 11 October 2020, that it has a number of concerns with the Sunday Times' article and Leigh Day's approach to these claims. Kakuzi notes the following:

1.  Leigh Day's insistence on anonymity for those making these claims hinders the investigation to get justice for those who seek it, or to resolve the claims quickly.  As far as Kakuzi is aware, few of the allegations have ever been reported to Kakuzi or the Kenyan authorities.

2.  In July 2020 Leigh Day dropped its UK Court claims against Kakuzi. Kakuzi believes that Leigh Day is running a smear campaign against Kakuzi and some of its customers.

3.  It is unfathomable that a UK law firm regards Kenya's legal system as incapable of dealing with alleged criminal acts by Kakuzi employees against other Kenyans.

4.  Kakuzi asked the Kenyan Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the allegations from Leigh Day and to take appropriate steps under Kenyan law.

5.  Kakuzi has fully funded independent legal advice and professional counselling services available for any claimant as part of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process recognised under the Kenyan Constitution. Anonymity is provided within this system. 

Camellia is aware that Kakuzi undertakes regular third party local and international accreditation audits for the governance of its sector. These are made available to Kakuzi's trade partners, including the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and customers. Camellia understands that Kakuzi has also updated an agreed Action Plan   following an ETI assessment in 2019 and Kakuzi would welcome a fresh independent audit.

While Kakuzi rightly continues to investigate these grave allegations, Camellia - as a responsible shareholder - fully expects Kakuzi and its board to ensure that all allegations are urgently and exhaustively examined, that justice is served if wrongdoing is uncovered, and that key stakeholders including customers are regularly updated on their progress.

Camellia is of course, as far as possible, investigating matters in the context of the claims it is facing, and will continue to update its own shareholders.