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11 Jun 2024

Daphne Ewing-Chow, Forbes

Chiquita found guilty of funding Colombian paramilitary group - must pay $38.3 million

"Chiquita Brands Found Guilty Of Funding Colombian Terrorist Group" , 10 June 2024

June 10, 2024 marked a groundbreaking moment in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida as a unanimous jury delivered a verdict holding banana giant, Chiquita Brands International, Inc., liable to pay $38.3 million in damages to the families of eight farmers and civilians brutally murdered in Colombia by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), also known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, between 1997 and 2004.

The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia was a right-wing paramilitary group that was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (“FTO”) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (“SDGT”) by the United States Government in 2001.

Chiquita made systematic and prolonged payments to the group, in the amount of $1.7 million, between 1997 and 2004.

The United States Department of Justice pursued legal action against Chiquita for these transactions, leading to the company's admission of guilt in 2007 for engaging in dealings with a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Chiquita was required to pay a fine of $25 million as a result.

Subsequently civil suits were brought against Chiquita in the United States to obtain compensation for the victims of AUC violence in Colombia, predicated upon Chiquita’s material support of a terrorist organization in the form of money as well as other forms of collaboration with the AUC from which the banana company benefited.

Despite facing numerous lawsuits from victims' families, the recent Florida verdict marks the first instance of Chiquita being held accountable for its actions.

In a statement released after the verdict, Chiquita expressed sympathy for those affected by the violence in Colombia, describing the situation as "tragic for so many, including those directly impacted." The company added, "Our thoughts remain with them and their families. However, we maintain that there is no legal basis for these claims."

This historic ruling is unprecedented, marking the first time an American jury has held a major U.S. corporation responsible for involvement in egregious human rights abuses overseas, setting a powerful global precedent.