Chiquita case: AUC victims rebuke extortion claims

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Chiquita case: AUC victims rebuke extortion claims

Despite allegations that the Colombian right-wing paramilitary organization AUC extorted and threatened Chiquita’s operations, families of the victims argued Thursday that the firm’s regular payments to the group were more of a “partnership,” Law360 reported.

The plaintiffs' counsel dismissed Chiquita’s extortion claims, saying the U.S. government rejected this defense when it prosecuted the banana company in 2007. Chiquita then pled guilty and agreed to pay a $25 million fine.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs asked for $200,000 per year for each survivor of the nine victims of AUC. This adds up to approximately $5 million per survivor of each victim, as the crimes were committed 25 years ago on average.

Related articles: Chiquita case: Ex-DEA agent adds to extortion claims

Leading counsel Jack Scarola said the awards are “an attempt to balance the scale and restore what these families have lost."

Former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent David L. Gaddis stated on May 31 that the right-wing paramilitary group was the leading supplier of cocaine and had "victimized" the company by using it to smuggle drugs.

Michael Cioffi, representing Chiquita, told jurors that the company was acting reasonably given the violent civil war situation.

"It's clear the decedents would've been killed whether Chiquita set a foot in Colombia or not," Cioffi said. "There was nothing that Chiquita did that substantially assisted the AUC."

The jury began deliberating on Friday 7.

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