Chiquita Banana Funded Colombian Terrorists For Years

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Posted: 12th June 2024 by
Lawyer Monthly
Last updated 12th July 2024
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The Swiss-domiciled American producer and distributor of bananas, Chiquita Brands International, has been deemed responsible for supporting a right-wing paramilitary organization in Colombia and is required to compensate the relatives of eight individuals $38.3million who were murdered by the group during the nation's civil conflict. This decision by a federal court in Florida on Monday is a historic verdict, following 17 years of legal battles. It is the first instance in which a major corporation has been held accountable for similar claims against those harmed by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), according to the lawyers representing the victims.

In 2007, Chiquita admitted to one charge of conducting business dealings with a “specifically designated international terrorist” and was mandated to pay a $25 million penalty by the U.S. Department of Justice at the time. The company was alleged to have made unlawful payments to the AUC, a paramilitary organization infamous for its involvement in large-scale killings, abductions of civilians, and the disfigurement of their bodies. The lawsuit, initially brought by the non-profit EarthRights International in 2007, led to several additional lawsuits in 2008, the organization reported. A group of law firms from across the United States have been representing more than 5,000 victims from Colombia in the case, with more trials planned for other victims in July, according to the lawyers. The decision reached on Monday, after a six-week trial and two days of discussions, also signifies the first instance where a major U.S. company has been held accountable for its participation in human rights violations overseas, according to the lawyers. This verdict could influence similar legal actions involving such violations.

The eight individuals filing the lawsuit, which also includes the relatives of eight men killed by the AUC, claimed that Chiquita paid close to $2 million to the aggressive militant group. The firm further accused the group of "helping transport weapons, explosives, and narcotics, even though it was aware that the AUC was a criminal organization involved in a period of terror," according to a statement from Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

The lawyers representing the plaintiffs claimed that Chiquita's backing of the AUC broke both U.S. and Colombian legal codes. Throughout the court proceedings, they contended that the corporation intentionally collaborated with the AUC to safeguard its earnings and to quell worker dissatisfaction. On Monday, a federal panel in Florida determined that Chiquita intentionally supplied significant aid to the rebel group through financial contributions or alternative forms of support, to a level that reasonably foresaw potential danger. The eight individuals were murdered by the AUC, and Chiquita failed to demonstrate that its backing of the group was motivated by an immediate threat to the company or its workers, according to the jury.

"The verdict does not bring back the husbands and sons who were killed, but it sets the record straight and places accountability for funding terrorism where it belongs: at Chiquita's doorstep," Agnieszka Fryszman, a lawyer at law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, said in a statement.

As the lawyers representing the plaintiffs rejoiced over the decision on Monday, they pointed out that the wider legal battle against Chiquita involves thousands more claimants — whose "problems could be settled through more court proceedings, or a final agreement."

Published by: - June 12, 2024

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