Chiquita fine should go to terrorist victims, says Colombia

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chiquita

Colombian officials have lashed out against a US court decision to
fine banana firm Chiquita for making payments to paramilitary
groups in the country, saying victims of these groups should
receive the money instead.

According to media reports yesterday, Colombia has pressed the US to hand over the $25m fine imposed on the fruit company. The level of the fine was set out in a plea agreement between the company and the US Department of Justice (DOJ), following a three-year government investigation into payments made by the company in Colombia to certain groups designated under US law as foreign terrorist organizations, and accused of massacres in a war with leftist guerrillas. Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said the National Commission for Reconciliation and Reparation - which oversees victim compensation - contacted the US Attorney General's office to push for the fine to be paid into a victims fund, reported Reuters​ yesterday. "We are speaking to attorneys to make sure this $25 million ends up going to compensate victims,"​ Santos told reporters. According to its plea agreement, Chiquita made payments to right- and left-wing paramilitary groups totaling $1.7m, which the firm claimed were necessary to "protect the lives of its employees". ​Soon after the initial plea agreement was made in March, the Colombian authorities were said to have made statements saying they would call for the extradition of some company executives to face criminal charges. However, earlier this month it was revealed that the government had decided not to prosecute any current or former company executives in connection with its investigation. In a sentencing memorandum filed by the DOJ, it recommended that the US District Court for the District of Colombia approve the plea agreement. Under the terms of the settlement, Chiquita will pay a fine of $25m, payable in five equal annual installments, with interest. The firm said it has recorded a reserve for the full $25m fine amount in anticipation of reaching a settlement. 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.

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