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Chiquita must pay $38.3 million 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 Colombians killed by a paramilitary group in the country, a Florida jury found Monday.

In 2007, a US court ordered Chiquita to pay a $25 million fine to settle criminal charges related to doing business with the paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Chiquita admitted in that case to paying security money between 2001 and 2004, which it claimed it did to protect employees.

A jury in a civil case in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida found in a judgment Monday that Chiquita knowingly provided AUC with substantial assistance in the form of cash payments or other means of support, sufficient to create a foreseeable risk of harm.

The jury found that the men were killed by AUC and Chiquita failed to prove that its support of AUC was the result of impending harm to the company or its employees.

“The verdict does not bring back to life the murdered husbands and sons, but it clarifies the matter and puts responsibility for financing terrorism where it belongs: at the door of Chiquita,” said Agnieszka Frysszman, a lawyer at the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, who represented the plantiffs, he said in a statement.

Chiquita did not immediately respond to a request for comment.