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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Spanish woman sues for millions after learning she was switched at birth

A 19-year-old woman is seeking millions of euros in damages after it emerged that she was accidentally swapped with another newborn at a Spanish hospital nearly two decades ago.

Spanish woman sues for millions after learning she was switched at birth
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The babies were mixed up in 2002 after they were born five hours apart and placed in incubators at the San Millan de Logrono in northern Spain, due to a “one-off human error,” regional health authorities said.

The error was discovered four years ago after one of the girls who was switched underwent a DNA test as part of dispute over child support payments.

The woman, now 19, is demanding compensation of €3 million ($3.5 million) from health authorities for having been handed to the wrong family, her lawyer Jose Saez-Morga told AFP.

“We are talking about huge damages, which will last her whole life and which will never be repaired,” he said.

Health authorities in the Rioja region have so far only offered the woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, 215,000 euros in compensation, he added.

The regional health chief, Sara Alba, said computer systems back then did not have as many details as they do today, and stressed that a similar mix-up could not happen again.

Officials are “not aware” of any other cases at the hospital, which has since closed, she told a news conference on Tuesday.

“We have not been able to determine who is to blame for this mistake,” Alba said.

“It was a one-off human error which could not happen today. We can guarantee that this will not happen again.”

Saez-Morga said the other young woman switched at birth and her family have also undergone DNA testing.

She has also asked to remain anonymous and has so far not filed a lawsuit, he added.

According to Spanish media reports, one woman was sent to live with a couple who she believed to be her parents while the other, who has filed the lawsuit, was raised mostly by a woman she mistakenly thought was her grandmother.