A research institute at George Washington University wants records that show Chiquita doing business with terrorists, and it has the produce giant going bananas.
Chiquita filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court last week to prevent the documents from being handed over to the National Security Archive, an investigative journalism center and archive of declassified government documents housed at GWU. The center believes the documents, currently held by the Securities and Exchange Commission, show Chiquita made illegal payments to Colombian terrorist groups more than a decade ago in exchange for security from those groups.
The banana producer has already pled guilty to similar crimes. In 2007, it admitted doing business with a terrorist group in Colombia known as the "AUC" over the course of nearly a decade, and paid a $25 million fine.
But the National Security Archive believes there's more information contained in some two dozen boxes of Chiquita records currently held by the SEC.
"We don't know what's in there, but obviously Chiquita is worried about it," says Michael Evans, director of the National Security Archive's Colombia Project, who believes the documents may contain a bigger story. "And so Chiquita [has issued] what is basically a FOIA in reverse. A FOIA is supposed to be a pro-transparency instrument. They're using this as a pro-secrecy instrument."
Chiquita did not immediately respond to request for comment from Whispers, but company spokeswoman Tiffany Breaux told the Charlotte Observer in an email that "while the National Security Archive presents itself as an independent research organization, it is actively assisting the plaintiffs' lawyers who are seeking to profit by bringing meritless claims against Chiquita."