Mancuso said he would be happy to cooperate with the United States Justice Department if it wishes to inquire about companies paying money to the paramilitaries. “I am taking the opportunity to invite…the Department of Justice so that they can come and so I can tell them all that they want to know from us,” he said.Both Dole Food Company and Fresh Del Monte Produce, which is not affiliated with Del Monte Foods, have issued statements strongly denying that they made payments to the paramilitaries. Fresh Del Monte Produce said its Colombian operation is “limited to a sales office which purchases bananas from independent growers.”The former AUC leader denied allegations by Chiquita Brands International CEO Fernando Aguirre that the AUC would murder Chiquita employers if they did not pay: “They paid taxes because we were like a state in the area, and because we were providing them with protection which enabled them to continue making investments and a financial profit.”Retaliation never came into the paramilitary’s mind because Chiquita was “so willing to pay”, Mancuso said.A U.S. judge ordered Chiquita to pay a US$ 25 million fine, after they were found guilty of crimes against humanity in 2007. Executives of Chiquita, responsible for the deal, were never criminally prosecuted.
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