Fruit supplier maintains its payments to AUC were the result of extortion, not collusion, after Florida jury demands damages be paid

Fruitnet can reveal that Chiquita Brands International will appeal against a US federal court ruling that the company must pay US$38.3m to the families of eight victims of a Colombian paramilitary group.

A Florida jury concluded earlier this week that the company provided financial assistance to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) and, in doing so, put its employees at risk of harm.

But Chiquita has argued throughout the case that the payments should be regarded as extortion.

“Chiquita intends to appeal the jury’s verdict,” a spokesperson for the fruit marketer told Fruitnet. “The situation in Colombia was tragic for so many, including those directly affected by the violence there, and our thoughts remain with them and their families.

“However, that does not change our belief that there is no legal basis for these claims. While we are disappointed by the decision, we remain confident that our legal position will ultimately prevail.”

Chiquita was fined US$25m 17 years ago 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.