Chiquita Sued Over Colombian Paramilitary Payments

MIAMI  -- More than 4,000 Colombians are suing banana giant Chiquita Brands International in the U.S., saying the company's payments funded the right-wing paramilitary groups that killed their relatives.

They say the payments amounted to illegal support for terrorists. The groups' victims have largely been civilians

The Cincinnati-based company pleaded guilty in 2007 to similar criminal charges and paid a $25 million fine. But if the lawsuits succeed, the families' lawyers estimate the damages against Chiquita could reach the billions of dollars.

The cases filed around the country are being heard by a South Florida federal judge.

Chiquita says the lawsuits should be dismissed because it was blackmailed into paying the paramilitary groups. It says its personnel in Colombia would have faced violent attacks and kidnappings if it didn't pay.