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3 Mai 2024

Hannah Phillips, Palm Beach Post (USA)

US trial against Chiquita accused of financing Colombian paramilitaries that killed thousands begins after >10 years

"Trial against Chiquita, accused of helping terrorists kill thousands, finally begins", 3 May 2024

The families of men and women killed by Colombian terrorists are finally facing off against the corporate giant accused of financing their loved ones' murder: Chiquita Brands International.

The trial against Chiquita follows more than a decade of litigation over illegal payments the banana giant made to Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a militant group known to kidnap civilians in the middle of the night and leave their mutilated corpses for their families to find.

Attorneys for Chiquita say the company had no choice but pay the terrorists nearly $2 million in the late 1990s and early 2000s to protect its Colombian employees from further violence.

In a federal courtroom in West Palm Beach on Tuesday, lawyers for the victims’ families said the opposite is true; that Chiquita willingly partnered with the AUC in order to protect its profits — not its people — and to quell employee unrest by any means necessary.

This month’s trial comes almost two decades after Chiquita executives pleaded guilty in a New York courtroom to financing the AUC. The company made a deal with federal prosecutors that cemented its conviction but spared it additional criminal charges, allowing executives to move on in exchange for a $25 million fine.

No executive spent a day in jail for their crime, West Palm Beach attorney Jack Scarola said Tuesday. No surviving victim saw a penny of the payout. Seventeen years later, he said, it’s up to jurors to decide whether and how the victims of the Chiquita-funded terror will be compensated...

The trial...is expected to last at least one month...The suits from around the country were consolidated...