The multinational fruit and vegetable company, Chiquita Brands International, has asked a US Federal Court to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them by families of victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia, reported national media.
Chiquita Brands in 2007 was fined $25 million after being found guilty of paying $1.7 million to now-defunct paramilitary umbrella group AUC , between 1997 and 2004.
Chiquita has argued that the claims should be rejected because although they made the payments, it can’t be asserted that they were directly linked to the thousands of deaths caused by the paramilitaries, reported Colombia’s Santa Fe Radio.
John Hall, a lawyer for the company, told a US court that any legal action taken by the families of victims should take place in Colombia.
Attorney for the Colombian plaintiffs, Paul Hoffman, said that the American justice system does have jurisdiction over the case because Chiquita headquarters was based in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the time, and made payment decisions from that location.
The legal representatives of the victims have claimed that Chiquita should be held responsible for the deaths, even if the managers did not know the exact details about the actions of the death squads.
Chiquita Brands International, which ended its Colombian operations in 2004 , three years later admitted that it had paid Colombian paramilitaries $ 1.7 million, “under pressure.”
The testimony of former paramilitaries however has indicated that far from being extortion, it was in fact Chiquita who initiated contact with the AUC.