In the News

Banana Giant Held Liable for Funding Paramilitaries


June 11, 2024

A court in the United States has found multinational fruit company Chiquita Brands International liable for financing a Colombian paramilitary group.

The group, the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), was designated by the US as a terrorist organisation at the time.

The AUC engaged in widespread human rights abuses, including murdering people it suspected of links with left-wing rebels.

Following a civil case brought by eight Colombian families whose relatives were killed by the AUC, Chiquita has been ordered to pay $38.3m (£30m) in damages to the families.

The jury in the case, which was heard in a federal court in South Florida, found Chiquita responsible for the wrongful deaths of eight men murdered by the AUC.

The victims ranged from trade unionists to banana workers.

The case was brought by the families after Chiquita pleaded guilty in 2007 to making payments to the AUC.

During the 2007 trial, it was revealed that Chiquita had made payments amounting to more than $1.7m to the AUC in the six years from 1997 to 2004.

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But the plaintiffs argued that the company formed “an unholy alliance with the AUC” at a time when Chiquita was expanding its presence in regions controlled by the AUC.

The regular payments continued even after the AUC was designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organisation in 2001.

While the AUC claimed to have been created to defend landowners from attacks and extortion attempts by left-wing rebels, the paramilitary group more often acted as a death squad for drug traffickers.

At its height, it had an estimated 30,000 members who engaged in intimidation, drug trafficking, extortion, forced displacement and killings.

It also launched brutal attacks on villagers they suspected of supporting left-wing rebels.

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Agnieszka Fryszman, one of the leading lawyers for the plaintiffs, praised the families she represented, saying that they had “risked their lives to come forward to hold Chiquita to account, putting their faith in the United States justice system”.

She added that “the verdict does not bring back the husbands and sons who were killed, but it sets the record straight and places accountability for funding terrorism where it belongs: at Chiquita’s doorstep”.

Another lawyer for the Colombian families, Leslie Kroeger, said that “after a long 17 years against a well-funded defence, justice was finally served”.

A second case against Chiquita brought by another group of plaintiffs is due to start on 15 July.

Read Banana Giant Held Liable for Funding Paramilitaries.