On March 14, 2007, Chiquita Brands was fined $25 million as part of a settlement with the United States Justice Department for having ties to Colombian paramilitary groups. According to court documents, between 1997 and 2004, officers of a Chiquita subsidiary paid approximately $1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, the AUC, in exchange for local, employee protection in Colombia's volatile banana harvesting zone. Similar payments were also made to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as the National Liberation Army (ELN) from 1989 to 1997. All three of these groups are on the U.S. State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
On March 19, 2007, Chiquita Brands admitted in federal court that the subsidiary company (which was subsequently sold) paid Colombian terrorists to protect employees at its most profitable banana-growing operation. As part of a deal with prosecutors, the company pleaded guilty to one count of doing business with a terrorist organization. In exchange, the company will pay a $25-million fine and court documents will not reveal the identities of the group of senior executives who approved the illegal protection payments.
Chiquita currently faces serious charges in a lawsuit issued in June 2007. According to the attorney of 173 family members of victims of the AUC militia this could be the biggest terrorist case in history and may put Chiquita out of business. "Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer with International Rights Advocates who is leading the multi-million dollar litigation, said: "This is a landmark case, maybe the biggest terrorism case in history. In terms of casualties, it's the size of three World Trade Center attacks."