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Chiquita to pay $25M in terror case

Stored under Caption This!GamesMiscellaneousNewsRecipesRelated EBay AuctionsReviewsVideosVisual Stimulation on March 15, 2007

WASHINGTON - Banana company Chiquita Brands International said Wednesday it has agreed to a $25 million fine after admitting it paid a Colombian terrorist group for protection in a volatile farming region.

The settlement resolves a lengthy Justice Department investigation into the company's financial dealings with terrorist organizations in Colombia.

In court documents filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said several unnamed high-ranking corporate officers at the Cincinnati-based company paid 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 right-wing group was designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization in September 2001.

Prosecutors said the company made the payments in exchange for protection for its workers. The company also made similar payments to the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, according to prosecutors.

Colombia's banana-growing region is a zone over which leftist rebels and far-right paramilitaries have fought viciously. Most companies have extensive security operations to protect employees in the area.

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