Chiquita found liable for financing paramilitary group

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An employee arranges Chiquita Brands International Inc. bananas in the produce section of a Kroger Co. grocery store in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday, June 14, 2017.


A Florida jury on Monday found banana company Chiquita Brands International responsible for financing the Colombian paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC).

The jury in the civil case, in federal court for the Southern District of Florida, found that “Chiquita knowingly provided substantial assistance to AUC, to a degree sufficient to create a foreseeable risk of harm to others.”

Chiquita, one of the largest banana producers in the world, was ordered to pay a total of $38.3 million to the families of eight victims of the AUC, a far-right paramilitary group designated a terrorist organization by the United States. The group disbanded in 2006, according to Stanford University’s Mapping Militants Project.

In an amended Florida lawsuit filed in 2008, the plaintiffs alleged that Chiquita’s payments to the AUC supported the paramilitary group’s violence in Colombia and that the company should be held responsible for the group’s killings.

In a statement to CNN, Chiquita said it plans to appeal the jury’s verdict.

“The situation in Colombia has been tragic for many people, including those directly affected by the violence, and our thoughts are with them and their families. However, this does not change our belief that there is no legal basis for these allegations,” the company’s statement said. “While we are disappointed by this decision, we remain confident that our legal position will ultimately prevail. »

In 2007, Chiquita pleaded guilty to making more than 100 payments to the AUC totaling more than $1.7 million, despite the group being designated as a terrorist organization. Chiquita recorded the AUC payments as “security services,” although the company never received any actual services from those payments, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release at the time. The company agreed to pay the US government a $25 million fine, the US said in its statement.

An anonymous company executive told the Justice Department that the payments were made under threat of violence, according to the statement. However, the Florida jury ruled that Chiquita did not “act as a reasonable businessman would have done under the circumstances.”

In a social media post, Colombian President Gustavo Petro reacted to the U.S. jury’s decision on Tuesday and questioned why the same decision had not been made in his home country.

“Why was American justice able to determine with judicial truth that Chiquita Brands financed paramilitarism in Urabá? Why couldn’t Colombian justice? he said in an article on X translated from Spanish.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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