Court ruling says multinational fruit marketer “knowingly” paid the terrorist organisation AUC, which was found responsible for eight killings

Chiquita bananas

A Florida court has ordered Chiquita Brands International to pay more than US$38m in damages to the families of eight victims of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) in Colombia.

The jury decision included an assertion that the company “knowingly provided substantial assistance to the AUC in the form of cash payments or other means of support, to a degree sufficient to create a fore seeable risk of harm”, according to a Reuters story.

Chiquita previously argued that the payments were extortion, in response to violent threats against its workers and facilities.

However, the jury concluded that Chiquita had not proven its support for the AUC was to avert any such harm.

In 2007, Chiquita was fined US$25m in relation to charges that it worked with a terrorist organisation in Colombia. As reported by Reuters at the time, the group accepted the fine after it pleaded guilty to paying protection money to the paramilitaries between 2001 and 2004.

“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,” commented prosecution lawyer Agnieszka Fryszman.

Chiquita did not comment immediately on the court’s decision, but has since issued a statement saying it intends to appeal.