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Chiquita Charged With Terrorist Dealings

Banana company Chiquita Brands International Inc. was charged Wednesday with doing business with a terrorist organization.

Court documents filed Wednesday are an indication the company has settled a lengthy Justice Department investigation into its financial dealings with terrorist groups in Colombia.

Federal prosecutors said the Cincinnati-based company and several unnamed high-ranking corporate officers did business with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. The group is described in court documents as a violent right-wing organization that the U.S. has designated as a terrorist group.

Details of the settlement were not included in court documents. But Chiquita said last month it had set aside $25 million to resolve the dispute. The company said the investigation involved a former subsidiary that made payments under pressure to ensure the safety of its employees.

The payments were approved by senior executives at Chiquita, prosecutors wrote in court documents. Corporate books were kept to conceal the deals, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Chiquita began paying the right-wing AUC after a meeting in 1997.

"No later than in or about September 2000, defendant Chiquita's senior executives knew that the corporation was paying AUC and that the AUC was a violent paramilitary organization," prosecutors wrote in Wednesday's court filing.

The company also did business with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, according to prosecutors.

The document filed by federal prosecutors is known as an information. Unlike an indictment, it is normally worked out through discussions with prosecutors and is followed by a guilty plea. A plea hearing is scheduled for Monday.

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