Banana multinational Chiquita Brands has responded to recent charges in Colombia against a group of former employees accused of financing a paramilitary group that committed grave crimes during the nation’s armed conflict.
On Friday (August 31) Colombia’s Office of the Attorney General released a statement saying it was charging 13 people with "aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime".
The workers include eight people from Colombia, three from the U.S., one from Honduras and one from Costa Rica.
The Attorney General's office on Friday said it had evidence the company directed funds through a subsidiary, Banadex and Banacol, “for the presumed financing” of the paramilitary group known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
Specifically, it alleges company executives directed funds to the Arlex Hurtado front of the AUC while it was led by Raúl Emilio Hasbún Mendoza, known by the alias Pedro Bonito.
"The evidence demonstrates the participation of managers and some employees of these companies, whether by decision-making, intervention and/or participation in the promotion and financing of the illegal group,” the statement said.
On Wednesday, a Chiquita spokesperson sent a statement to Fresh Fruit Portal responding to the charges.
"Chiquita is aware that Fiscalìa in Colombia last week formally accused a number of individuals for aiding paramilitary organisations in that country," the spokesperson said.
"This whole legal process in Colombia started more than a decade ago. Some of these individuals were, at some point in their careers, associated with the activities of one of the company's subsidiaries in Colombia during this difficult period in Colombia’s history of the 1990’s.
"The Chiquita of today still believes that these individuals are innocent of the crimes they are being accused of committing and will continue to support their defense in the expectation that the Colombian criminal legal system will, in the end, allow justice to prove their innocence."
In a U.S. court settlement in 2007, Chiquita stated that it had been forced to pay millions of dollars to rightwing paramilitary and Marxist guerrilla groups alike for security protections that would allow it to operate in Colombia, according to Tele Sur Tv.