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Chiquita Found Liable for Funding Colombian Paramilitary Group

June 14, 2024
The banana supplier must pay $38 million to families of victims killed by Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a designated terrorist group.

A jury in a civil case in Florida this week found banana company Chiquita Brands International liable for financing the Colombian paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). The jury awarded $38.3 million to the families of eight victims who were killed by AUC.

The jury found “Chiquita knowingly provided substantial assistance to the AUC to a degree sufficient to create a foreseeable risk of harm to others,” according to a CNN report. That group killed many Colombians until it disbanded in 2006.

Chiquita said it plans to appeal the verdict. "The situation in Colombia was tragic for so many, including those directly affected by the violence there, and our thoughts remain with them and their families," the company said in an email to Food Processing. "However, that does not change our belief that there is no legal basis for these claims. While we are disappointed by the decision, we remain confident that our legal position will ultimately prevail.”

In 2007, Chiquita pleaded guilty in District of Columbia court to paying $1.7 million to the AUC over the course of more than 100 payments, despite the group being designated a terrorist organization by U.S. officials. The company paid a $25 million fine to the U.S. government.

Chiquita recorded the payments as “security services,” although the company never received any actual services from these payments, according to a Justice Dept. press release from the time. Chiquita said it was extortion and was agreed to in part to protect its own employees in Colombia. The Florida lawsuit said Chiquita’s payments helped keep AUC in business.

“The verdict sends a powerful message: Corporations will be held accountable when business decisions prioritize profits over human lives,” said a statement from Searcy Law, which was representing the victims, and carried by CNN.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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