12/21/18 The Chiquita 13: Profiles of Banana Officials Accused of Crimes Against Humanity Print

From National Security Archive | Original Article

FOIA Documents Reveal Roles of Fruit Company Execs Named in Colombia Case

Banana executives with Chiquita Brands now the subject of a major criminal investigation in Colombia were instrumental in the development and execution of company policies surrounding secret payments to Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary groups, according to an article and Web posting published today by National Security Archive senior analyst Michael Evans.

The National Security Archive is publishing its findings in collaboration with VerdadAbierta, a longtime Archive partner that works to shed light on the roots of Colombia's conflict. The new publications synthesize information drawn from public sources and a 48,000-page trove of corporate records obtained through the Archive's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Among the highlights of today's posting is the secret deposition of John Paul Olivo, who from 1996-2001 was the chief financial officer for Banadex, Chiquita's wholly-owned subsidiary in Colombia. In hours of secret testimony before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Olivo detailed the steps the company took to negotiate, approve and conceal the illegal payments to armed groups in Colombia, acts that the Colombian prosecutor says are crimes against humanity.

Today's Web posting looks at the role of Olivo and a dozen other fruit company executives named in the Colombia case, including Charles Keiser, the longtime general manager at Banadex who oversaw the illegal payments process and personally authorized many of the secret expenditures. Also profiled is Álvaro Acevedo, who succeeded Keiser as general manager and who "became increasingly concerned" that the company was using his personal salary to smuggle money into the country intended for illegal paramilitary groups.

Among the most important figures profiled here is Victor Buitrago, the former Banadex security manager. Buitrago was a central player in the paramilitary payments operation, a primary witness to how the mechanics of the scheme evolved during that time, and one of the figures involved in the decision to continue the payments after it was learned that the AUC paramilitary group had been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States. Olivo and other witnesses describe a system in which Buitrago and the previous security manager, Juan Manuel Alvarado, operated without any effective oversight. Olivo told the SEC that "the only person that requests funds and payments for guerrillas is the head of security. No one ever knows who – or negotiates with these groups, except for himself. And that’s been my, if you will, my concern since day one."

Read the full investigation here.