Chiquita to pay fine for paying terrorists

The United States Justice Department has recommended that the US District Court for the District of Columbia approve an agreement through which Chiquita Brands International Inc would plead guilty to one count of conducting business with a terrorist group.

Under terms of the agreement, the company will pay a fine of $25 million, payable in five annual installments. Chiquita recorded a reserve in 2006 for the full amount of the fine in anticipation of reaching an agreement.

Chiquita accepted the deal after a three-year US government investigation into protection payments made by its former unit in Colombia to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. This right-wing group has been designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization.

The banana producer was accused of making more than 100 payments totaling more than $1.7 million to the group from 1997 through early 2004. Chiquita contends the group threatened its employees and that it made the payments to protect the workers.

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