Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Guess it’s okay to fund terrorists

with 2 comments

If you’re a large American company, that is. And what harm can they possibly do with just $1.7 million? The Justice Department don’t think it’s even worth prosecuting. (Wonder how much the company gave to Bush’s campaign and the GOP—that information is oddly missing from the report.) The story:

The Justice Department notified Chiquita Brands International yesterday that it will not seek to criminally charge its former top executive and other former high-ranking officers over the company’s payment of bribes to a Colombian organization on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups.

The multibillion-dollar banana company pleaded guilty earlier this year to making $1.7 million in illegal payments to a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group from 1997 to 2004. Until now, three of its officers were under investigation for authorizing and approving the payments to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC, after federal prosecutors warned them in April 2003 that such bribes violated the nation’s anti-terrorism laws.

“The United States gave serious consideration to bringing additional charges in this matter,” prosecutors wrote in a memo filed in court yesterday. “In the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, the United States has decided not do so.”

Of the 10 company officials with potential liability, those most under scrutiny were former Chiquita chief executive Cyrus Freidheim, former general counsel Robert Olson and former board member Roderick M. Hills, according to sources close to the probe. They and Chiquita had argued that the three men, who had disclosed the “protection money” payments to Justice officials, kept them going while awaiting advice that never came from then-Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff and then-Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson.

Roscoe C. Howard Jr., then U.S. attorney for Washington, had pushed his office to prosecute the case and said he equated financing the AUC with financing murder. The AUC has been on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations since September 2001, and Colombian authorities have blamed it for thousands of killings.

Cincinnati-based Chiquita, with $4.5 billion in annual revenue, agreed under its guilty plea in March to pay a $25 million fine and adopt a large-scale corporate integrity program. But U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth warned prosecutors in June that he could not decide an appropriate fine until he knew how the government had decided to handle the Chiquita officers who had continued the AUC payments.

In the plea agreement, prosecutors had revealed the officers’ actions but had not identified Hills, Freidheim or Olson by name.

Hills’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, said yesterday that the decision was “the right decision and justified by the facts in the case.” Olson’s attorney declined to comment before speaking to his client.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2007 at 11:37 am

2 Responses

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  1. Here’s information about the money donated by a company which owns a 30% stake in Chiquita. Opensecrets.org is a very interesting website.

    Like

    Anonymous

    13 September 2007 at 8:47 pm

  2. Aha. Sort of what I expected. The US government today is basically for sale.

    Like

    LeisureGuy

    13 September 2007 at 10:14 pm


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