Chiquita execs could face extradition for terrorist funding

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chiquita

Senior management executives of banana firm Chiquita may face
extradition to Colombia to face criminal charges after the company
recently pleaded guilty to funding terrorist groups in the country.

However, the firm said it has not as yet been contacted with any extradition requests. Chiquita's dealings in Colombia have been the focus of a US Department of Justice investigation, which this month resulted in the company being slapped with a $25m fine. The three-year government inquiry focused on payments made by the company to certain groups in Colombia designated under US law as foreign terrorist organizations. The leading banana supplier pleaded guilty to making the payments through its Colombian subsidiary, but said it was "forced"​ to make payments to right- and left-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia to "protect the lives of its employees". ​The investigation included an examination of the conduct of a number of Chiquita's employees and directors, and their role in the payments. Company officials may face extradition to Colombia to face criminal charges. Colombian authorities are said to have made statements saying they will call for the extradition of some company executives, but Chiquita said it has not received any requests and it "doesn't know"​ if these will be likely. The firm, which voluntarily disclosed these payments to the Justice Department in April 2003, sold its Colombian subsidiary in 2004. A document detailing the payments, which were reportedly approved by senior company executives, was filed by the Justice Department in federal court in Washington. The payouts totaled more than $1.7m, according to the court document. However, Chiquita yesterday told FoodNavigator-USA.com that no individuals have been named or charged by the Justice Department. According to the firm, the plea agreement reached in recent weeks was a "reasoned solution"​ to an "admittedly very difficult situation"​. Chiquita, which is one of the world's largest banana producers, said it does not expect the fine will impact its ability to operate its business. It said it has recorded a reserve for the full $25m, which is payable in five installments upon sentencing. The hearing is due to take place on June 1, 2007. However, the firm also continues to be impacted by "challenging"​ market conditions, including new import regulations in the EU. These have resulted in Chiquita's announcement last week that its banana prices have again risen globally. Banana prices in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East rose six percent on a US dollar basis, compared to the year ago period. North American prices also continued to rise, although on a more modest level of one percent.

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