Lawsuit Filed Against Chiquita
April 7, 2008
A federal lawsuit filed by relatives of U.S. missionaries killed in Colombia claims that Chiquita Brands International Inc. contributed to their deaths by financing the leftist rebel group known as FARC, the Associated Press reported recently.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks unspecified damages for families of five missionaries from the Sanford, Fla.-based New Tribes Mission. They were kidnapped in the 1990s, held hostage for lengthy periods and ultimately killed by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC in its Spanish acronym, the lawsuit says.
Cincinnati-based Chiquita, one of the world''s biggest banana suppliers, provided "numerous and substantial hidden payments" to FARC as well as weapons and other supplies, the lawsuit claims. Those payments played a role in the missionaries'' deaths because the company helped support "acts of terrorism," the lawsuit contends.
At least four other lawsuits have been filed in the U.S., accusing Chiquita of complicity in the deaths of hundreds or thousands of Colombians at the hands of the two paramilitary groups. The cases recently were transferred to federal court in Miami.
Chiquita pleaded guilty to one count of doing business with a terrorist organization and agreed to pay a $25 million fine last year in an agreement with the Justice Department. It acknowledged that a former subsidiary made $1.7 million in payments from 1997 to 2004 to the AUC.