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Chiquita pleads guilty to paying protection money to Colombian terrorists

[JURIST] Chiquita Brands International, Inc. [corporate website] pleaded guilty [US DOJ press release] Monday to one count of engaging in transactions with a specially-designated global terrorist organization after admitting to deals with Colombian terrorists. The Cincinnati-based company is charged with having paid approximately $1.7 million to Colombian terrorist group United Self-Defense Forces (AUC) [CDI backgrounder; organization website, in Spanish] between 1997 and 2004 to protect its banana harvesting operations in Colombia. According to prosecutors, Chiquita also paid protection money to the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [CDI backgrounders].

Under the terms of the agreement made last week, Chiquita will pay a fine of $25 million [JURIST report], payable in five equal annual installments with interest, and will continue to cooperate with the government in any continuing investigation into the matter. As previously disclosed, Chiquita had recorded a reserve in 2006 for the full $25 million fine amount in anticipation of reaching a settlement with the government. In a statement late last week Chiquota said that "The payments made by the company were always motivated by our good faith concern for the safety of our employees. Nevertheless, we recognized – and acted upon – our legal obligation to inform the DOJ of this admittedly difficult situation. The agreement reached with the DOJ...is in the best interests of the company." The agreement is subject to approval and acceptance by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] and, if not accepted by US District Judge Royce Lamberth [official profile], Chiquita could pay up to $100 million in fines when it faces sentencing on June 1. AP has more.

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