Colombia charges 13 ex-Chiquita executives for financing death squads

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Colombia charges 13 ex-Chiquita executives for financing death squads

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Colombia's Attorney General's Office on Friday charged 13 former Chiquita executives for financing paramilitary death squads that are accused of killing more than 4,000 people.

Between 1997 and 2004, the executives of the Florida-based corporation paid $1.7 million to the United Self-Defenders of Colombia, or AUC in its Spanish initials, prosecutors said. The company already admitted to making the payments in 2007 in U.S. court when it settled with the Justice Department for funding terrorism and paid a $25 million fine.

Chiquita has said that it was "forced" to pay off the AUC.

"To be clear, there is no allegation that Chiquita itself committed any of the crimes perpetrated by the Colombian terrorist groups," the company said in a statement at the time. "The only allegation is that Chiquita should be held respons ible for these crimes by virtue of the money that it was forced to pay."

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Friday's announcement opens the case in Colombia, where the killings took place, and is the result of Prosecutor General Humberto Martinez's efforts to investigate and prosecute corporate funding of paramilitary squads, in what has become known as "para-economics," according to Colombia Reports.

Of the 13 former executives charged, three are American: Dorn Robert Wenninger, John Paul Olivo and Charles Dennis Keiser.

All of the former executives are accused of financing death squads that are accused of killing 4,335 people, disappeared 1,306 people and forced the displacement of 1,675 others.

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They are accused of crimes against humanity and "aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime."

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