Chiquita Sued in Terrorism Funds Case
Posted Jun 14, 2007 4:57 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
A Florida law firm has filed suit against Chiquita Brands Int'l., on behalf of 22 people allegedly killed by a Colombian terrorist group that received funds from the multinational company.
The suit--which a company spokesman terms "preposterous"--alleges that Chiquita banana workers and others were murdered by paramilitary troops funded by illegal "protection" payments from the company, reports the Miami Herald. The foreign plaintiffs are suing in federal court under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which provides for relief in U.S. court for those injured when a company acts illegally abroad. Chiquita, which is based in Cincinnati, also has offices in Florida.
The suit reportedly follows a March plea agreement, in which the company agreed to pay a $25 million U.S. Justice Department fine for making $1.7 million in illegal payments to such Colombian groups between 1997 and 2004. Ft. Lauderdale-based Conrad & Scherer, which is representing the plaintiffs, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Company spokesman Michael R. Mitchell calls the suit ''preposterous,'' and says Chiquita and its employees were "victims" of the Colombian situation, according to the Miami Herald. ''Chiquita has already been the victim of extortion in Colombia,'' Mitchell says in an e-mail to the newspaper. "We will not allow ourselves to become extortion victims in the United States.''