NEW YORK – The Chiquita company – the world's largest banana producer – has so far successfully blocked legislation that would allow 9/11 victims to sue companies that fund terrorists, according to a report.
A few years ago Chiquita voluntarily disclosed to the U.S. Justice Department payments made to violent groups, pled guilty to engaging with a terrorist group, and paid a $25 million fine. But the company realized if the 9/11 victims' bill passed, it would open up the company to lawsuits in civil court.
Chiquita banana has operated in Colombia for more than 100 years. Chiquita says that in the 1990s, violent drug cartels threatened workers. In one case, a paramilitary group killed 20 banana farm workers execution style. That was one of the reasons Chiquita agreed to make extortion payments totaling $1.7 million. Chiquita stopped the payments after the U.S. State Department designated the group a terrorist organization.
Tim Mak, the reporter who broke the story for The Daily Beast, explained that Chiquita has argued that it was extorted and paid the money to ensure the safety of its employees in Colombia.
The 9/11 victims' bill is called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.
The Daily Beast reports Chiquita spent nearly $800,000 on lobbyists and lawyers trying to block the bill. So far, the efforts have succeeded.
Terry Strada, who lost her husband on September 11, 2001, says she hopes lawyers from her group will work with Chiquita to change the wording of the bill so they can get it out of committee.
Chiquita said it has nothing against the bill, just the wording of it. And it should be noted that Chiquita had nothing to do with funding of the 9/11 attacks.
Chiquita issued a statement saying, in part: "Chiquita's purpose in engaging with congressional staff regarding JASTA is to encourage well-crafted legislation that does not inadvertently expose to frivolous but expensive lawsuits innocent individuals and companies, including Chiquita and others, who are victims of extortion by terrorists, forced to pay ransoms to terrorists for the release of kidnapped employees, or who otherwise cannot fairly be said to be supporters of terrorism."
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