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Chiquita Admits It Paid Colombian Terrorists To Protect Banana Crop

Business  (tags: Chiquita, terrorism, corruption, government, corporation, Republicans, campaign contributions, politics, Bush )

- 4207 days ago -
company pleaded guilty to one count of doing business with a terrorist organization. The plea is part of a deal with prosecutors that calls for a $25 million fine and does not identity the several senior executives who approved the illegal protection paym


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Blue Bunting (855)
Monday March 19, 2007, 3:14 pm
WASHINGTON — Banana company Chiquita Brands International admitted in federal court Monday that for years it paid Colombian terrorists to protect its most profitable banana-growing operation.

The company pleaded guilty to one count of doing business with a terrorist organization. The plea is part of a deal with prosecutors that calls for a $25 million fine and does not identity the several senior executives who approved the illegal protection payments.

The agreement ends a lengthy Justice Department investigation into the company's financial dealings with right-wing paramilitaries and leftist rebels the U.S. government deems terrorist groups.

Prosecutors say the Cincinnati-based company agreed to pay about $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC for its Spanish initials.

The AUC has been responsible for some of the worst massacres in Colombia's civil conflict and for a sizable percentage of the country's cocaine exports. The U.S. government designated the AUC a terrorist group in September 2001

Chiquita has said it was forced to make the payments and was acting only to ensure the safety of its workers.

But federal prosecutors noted in court Monday that from 2001 to 2004, when Chiquita made $825,000 in illegal payments, the Colombian banana operation earned $49.4 million and was the company's most profitable unit.

"Funding a terrorist organization can never be treated as a cost of doing business," U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said.

Chiquita sold Banadex, its Colombian subsidiary, in June 2004 for around $43.5 million.

In addition to paying the AUC, prosecutors said, Chiquita made payments to the National Liberation Army, or ELN, and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as control of the company's banana-growing area shifted.

Leftist rebels and far-right paramilitaries have fought viciously over Colombia's banana-growing region, though the victims are most often noncombatants. Most companies in the area have extensive security operations to protect employees.

Court documents listed 10 unidentified company employees who participated in the illegal deals and helped conceal them on company books. Prosecutors would not identity them or say whether they remain with Chiquita.

They assured U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, however, that two executives who approved the plea deal _ CEO Fernando Aguirre and Senior Vice President James Thompson _ were not among those in court documents.

The company is set to be sentenced June 1. By law, it faces up to nearly $100 million in fines if Lambreth does not accept the $25 million deal with prosecutors.

Chiquita stock has risen sharply since the deal was announced last week but company shares closed down 17 cents at $13.35 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.


Blue Bunting (855)
Monday March 19, 2007, 3:17 pm
Following The Money - Not Always An Easy Thing To Do

Earlier this week I posted about Chiquita Brands International receiving a $25 million fine for their funding of terrorist organizations in South America. In that post I pointed out that during the time this was happening, the CEO of Chiquita was GOP donor Carl Lindner. When looking for Lindner's FEC records on Newsmeat, I quickly found that his last name was misspelled on their site. I thought this may have been some sort of clerical error, but it appears more like this may have not been an error, but rather a way to circumvent the caps placed on donations. Citybeat, a Cincinnati based publication has dug further into these misspellings and uncovered this:

Cincinnati’s own Chiquita Brands International is in the headlines for paying a $25 million fine to the federal government after admitting it gave cash for years to a known Colombian terrorist group that traffics in cocaine as protection money. But a review of other federal documents raise troubling questions about Chiquita’s former owner, billionaire financier Carl Lindner Jr., and his family.

Lindner, his wife, sons and other family members are well known as big-money political campaign contributors, mostly to conservative Republican candidates and causes including President Bush. A review of documents filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), however, show that the family also gives money to candidates under the similar name of “Linder.”

The pattern of listing campaign contributions without the second “n” in the family’s name isn’t limited to one or two reports, and appears to be a pattern going back several years.

Read on

If Lindner is using some sort of loophole to bypass campaign donation caps then that loophole needs to be closed. At the very least this should merit a closer look by the FEC to see exactly what is happening here.

Filed Under: Campaigns/Elections

Blue Bunting (855)
Thursday March 22, 2007, 12:19 pm
El Tiempo, Colombia: Four Million Bullets: 'Congratulations' Chiquita Banana! "The case against Chiquita is a great opportunity to rip the lid off the putrid cauldron cooked up by companies that have enriched themselves with impunity on the blood of the people. Justice must not remain silent."
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