Mon, Apr 02, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Jailed paramilitary boss confirms Chiquita link

DPA , BOGOTA

Former Colombian paramilitary boss Freddy Rendon, alias "The German," who is serving time in jail, confirmed on Friday that extreme-right groups received funds from US banana producer Chiquita Brands.

The payments were meted out according to which group -- rightist or leftist -- was in control of a region at the time during Colombia's ongoing four decades of civil conflict.

From FARC to AUC

"The multinational company previously funded FARC [the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], when FARC had the hegemony in the Uraba region so that they did their job," Rendon said.

"When the [paramilitary] self-defense groups arrived they funded them too," Rendon said.

Last month, before a court in Washington, Chiquita Brands International pleaded guilty of having made payments to paramilitaries to obtain protection for its employees in Colombia.

The firm is paying a US$25 million fine for having hired a group that is considered a "terrorist" organization.

Chiquita was found to have secretly paid US$1.7 million to the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) between 1997 and February 2004, through its subsidiary in Colombia.

Rendon, who was sentenced to jail for his role as a paramilitary commander, was speaking to the press from the high-security Itagui prison that holds 43 paramilitary bosses.

The media had been summoned amid accusations that the commanders enjoyed luxury in the jail.

Rendon said he anticipated that the Chiquita case "is going to end with a fine in the United States and in Colombia it is news today and will be forgotten tomorrow."

Modus operandi

The former paramilitary leader explained that payments made by the multinationals were received by a corporation, which in turn handed them over to the AUC.

"It is no secret to anyone that banana businessmen in Uraba ... paid those resources through that corporation for security and all that," Rendon said.

"We can probably end up extradited [to the US], the Chiquita guys probably not," he said.

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