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Chiquita must pay $38.3m to families of Colombian men killed by paramilitary groups, Florida jury says

BOGOTA — Chiquita Brands International must pay $38.3 million in damages to the families of eight Colombian men killed by a paramilitary group in that country, a Florida jury said on Monday.

Chiquita in 2007 was ordered by a U.S. court to pay a $25 million fine to settle criminal charges that it did business with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group.

Chiquita pled guilty in that case to paying protection money from 2001 to 2004, which it said it did in order to protect employees.

The jury in the civil case before the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida said in the verdict on Monday that Chiquita knowingly provided substantial assistance to the AUC in the form of cash payments or other means of support, to a degree sufficient to create a foreseeable risk of harm.

The men were killed by the AUC, the jury said, and Chiquita did not prove its support for the AUC was the result of impending harm to the company or its employees.

“The verdict does not bring back the husbands and sons who were killed, but it sets the record straight and places accountability for funding terrorism where it belongs: at Chiquita’s doorstep,” said Agnieszka Fryszman, a lawyer at law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, who represented the plantiffs, said in a statement.

Chiquita did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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