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Chiquita: $25M fine for terror payments

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Banana producer Chiquita will pay a $25 million fine and serve five years' probation for once paying millions of dollars to groups in Colombia considered by the U.S. to be terrorist organizations, a Department of Justice spokesman said Tuesday.

A worker at a banana plantation in Santa Maria, Colombia, in December 2000.

In so doing, the banana producer avoided prosecution for the company's now-defunct payoff of Colombian terrorists protecting its most profitable banana-growing operation, according to terms of a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.

If approved by U.S. courts, the $25 million fine would represent the largest U.S. criminal penalty ever imposed under federal global terrorism sanction regulations, said Justice spokesman Dean Boyd. The regulations prohibit transactions with people who commit, threaten to commit or support U.S.-designated terrorists and establish penalties for doing so.

Attorneys from the Justice Department's National Security Division and federal prosecutors for the District of Columbia filed a joint sentencing motion Tuesday asking the court to accept the plea agreement, which was reached March 19, Boyd said. A hearing on the matter is set for Monday.

In its motion, the government asked that Chiquita Brands International be fined and sentenced to probation, as well as being required to implement an effective ethics program in connection with the company's guilty plea, Boyd said.

Federal prosecutors accused the Cincinnati-based company of paying more than $1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a right-wing paramilitary group, in two parts of Colombia where the company grew bananas.

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