5 Jun 2011

Banana compensation case to proceed

7:30 am on 5 June 2011

A judge in the United States has dismissed an attempt by the Chiquita banana company to halt a compensation case being brought by 4000 Colombians.

The plaintiffs say they or their relatives were tortured or killed by paramilitaries paid by the company.

The BBC reports that Chiquita has admitted paying paramilitaries. But it will defend itself against the claims.

In 2007, Chiquita was fined $US25 million for paying a Colombian paramilitary group - the United Self-Defence Forces - that the American government had listed as a terrorist organisation.

The company paid paramilitaries $US1.7 million between 1997 - 2004, the year it sold its banana holdings in Colombia.

It says it was forced to make the payments in order to protect its employees, not because it supported terrorism.

Paul Wolf, a lawyer for the claimants, hailed the decision by the Florida judge as a "remarkable victory".

He said he was very optimistic that they would win their case at trial.