U.S. banana company Chiquita Brands International claimed press, individuals and organizations “seek to distort the facts” surrounding payments made by to Colombian paramilitary organization AUC.
In a complaint filed last month, the company — that was found guilty of and fined for funding terrorist organizations — called on the court to prevent publication of “The Chiquita Documents” arguing that declassification of the documents “will make them available to the general public, including members of the press and individuals and organizations that seek to distort the facts surrounding the payments that [Chiquita subsidiary] Banadex made to the AUC under threat of force.”
Chiquita decided to sue after the National Security Archive, a non-government organization aimed at declassifying government documents, had requested the Securities and Exchange Commission to release the files.
The banana company is trying t0 prevent this because “past experience with release of Chiquita’s documents has demonstrated that media campaigns based on gross mischaracterizations of released documents are certain to occur in an effort to entrench misconceptions of relevant facts in the minds of fact finders integral to the fairness of the proceedings,” it said in the complaint.
Michael Evans of the National Security Archive told Colombia Reports that “what’s at stake are thousands of pages of documents about their admitted illegal payments to illegal armed groups in Colombia, including the AUC paramilitaries, which was then on an official U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. These payments were the seed money for the newly-formed AUC and helped finance dozens of paramilitary massacres that killed thousands of Colombians, not to mention the group’s extensive drug trafficking activities.”
“While I don’t know for sure why they want to keep these documents from the public, given that they admitted to making these payments six years ago, they seem to believe that there is something in there that might compromise their legal position vis-à-vis the civil litigation pending against the company in Florida and the preliminary criminal investigation now underway in Colombia,” said Evans.
“Chiquita has always claimed that the transactions were purely the result of AUC extortion and that they never received any tangible services or other benefits as a result of the $1.7 million in payments made to the terrorist group. Perhaps the company is afraid that we will find among those thousands of pages additional evidence that Chiquita benefited from their payments to the AUC,” the National Security Archive investigator said.
The banana company is currently being sued by families of victims of violence carried out by groups that were paid by Chiquita.
The multinational has admitted to making the payments, but claims these payments were the result of extortion.
- Chiquita complaint
- Email correspondence with Michael Evans (National Security Archive)