Chiquita Pleads Guilty to Funding Colombian Terrorists

The food company Chiquita Brands International, Inc. has pleaded guilty to funding a Colombian paramilitary group designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. According to U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors, the company's Colombian subsidiary, Banadex, paid approximately $1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) between 1997 and 2004. In its 2004 corporate social responsibility report, Chiquita stated that it had been "forced" to make the payments and had disclosed them to the Justice Department in early 2003. However, the Miami Herald reports that senior managers authorised payments "even after outside attorneys advised the company to halt the flow of money." In June 2004, Chiquita sold Banadex. In a deal struck with prosecutors, but not yet accepted by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, Chiquita has agreed to pay a $25 million fine. The names of the executives who approved the payments would not be revealed.