Chiquita Brands International, on April 4, filed a lawsuit to block the release of company records concerning the company’s illegal payments to Colombian paramilitary groups.
Chiquita sued the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), claiming the disclosure of the files would lead to unfair criticism of the company.
The records Chiquita seeks to block concern the 2007 court case in which the company paid a $25 million fine under United States anti-terrorism laws after admitting to having made $1.7 million in payments between 1997 and 2004 to the now-defunct United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), classified as terrorists by the U.S. government.
The company is currently defending a number of civil lawsuits in the state of Florida by families who claim their relatives were murdered or disappeared by the AUC after the company paid the group.
In the latest lawsuit, Chiquita alleges that the party who sought the documents, the Washington-based non-profit National Security Archive, has allied with plaintiff lawyers in the Florida lawsuits and seeks to influence those cases.
Chiquita lawyer James Garland stated in the complaint that allowing the files to be disclosed “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 Banadex [a Chiquita subsidiary] made to the AUC under threat of force.”
The lawsuit is searching for a “reverse” of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ruling, in which the National Security Archive requested and was granted access to the majority of the over 5,000 declassified internal documents, some of which they published in 2011 as the so-called “Chiquita Papers.”
Chiquita spokeswoman, Tiffany Breaux, stated in an email to the Charlotte Observer that the “lawsuit is Chiquita’s effort to ensure that information is disseminated fairly and with appropriate court supervision, so that the truth is not twisted for personal gain … While the National Security Archive presents itself as an independent research organization, it is actively assisting the plaintiffs’ lawyers who are seeking to profit by bringing meritless claims against Chiquita.”
However Michael Evans, a director for the National Security Archive dismissed this claim as “completely disingenuous,” and denied having any “personal vendetta against Chiquita.”
- Chiquita Sues to Block Release of Files on Colombia Terrorist Payments (The National Security Archive)
- Chiquita Brands Sues SEC to Probe Documents’ Release (Bloomberg)
- Chiquita sues to block release of documents related to terror group payments (Charlotte Observer)
- The Chiquita Papers (National Security Archive)