A lawsuit brought by a group of 185 Colombians against food multinational Dole for allegedly funding paramilitary groups was dismissed by a Californian court, the company announced Friday.
The suit was filed in April 2009 by relatives of 51 Colombians who were allegedly murdered by paramilitary death squads in the pay of Dole.
Dole was accused of paying around $10 million between 1997 and 2007 to leaders of paramilitary coalition the AUC, as well as to other militia groups. In exchange, the AUC would allegedly murder unionists considered troublesome by Dole, as well as driving farmers off land the company wanted to acquire.
The AUC was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2001.
“From the outset, Dole has adamantly denied the blatantly false allegations in this lawsuit,” Dole executive vice president C. Michael Carter said in a press release.
“It was based on the self-motivated declaration of a convicted Colombian terrorist in the custody of the Colombian government, which the Court had found was ‘inherently unreliable due to the unique circumstances in which [he] finds himself,'” according to Carter.
A key piece of evidence in the case was the testimony of demobilized paramilitary leader Jose Gregorio Mangones Lugo, alias “Carlos Tijeras,” who said that Dole had paid the AUC to kill union leaders.
Calros Tijeras testified that Dole paid the AUC to kidnap and murder unionists named by the company. He said that Dole would call the paramilitaries to identify “specific people as ‘security problems’ or just ‘problems.’ Everyone knew that this meant we were to execute the identified person.”