Three American executives are among those indicted in Colombia for alleged crimes against humanity, related to a 2007 criminal case against Chiquita Brands International Inc. for funding right-wing terrorist groups in that country.
The three, according to names published by UPI, are:
John Olivo, formerly Chiquita’s controller for North America, and now president of its online Fresh Express unit, based in Orlando, which delivers fresh salads and produce.
Dorn Wenninger, formerly chief administrative officer of Chiquita Colombia. Since 2016 he has been vice president of perishables for Walmart Mexico.
Charles Keiser, formerly Chiquita’s vice president for global sourcing and production. Since 2015 he has been president and founder of Florida-based Tropical Agriculture Consulting, helping startups in developing countries improve existing supply chains from field to market delivery.
None of the three men could immediately be reached for comment.
They are believed to be the only Americans who were part of a 13-person group indicted in Colombia on Sept. 1. Earlier news reports did not immediately name the defendants, and even recent ones did not identify their titles or current roles.
A 2017 lawsuit filed by U.S. families against Chiquita accused it of being responsible for the decade-old deaths of five central Florida missionaries and an Alabama geologist slain by Colombian rebels. That suit was settled in February, during jury selection for a trial in U.S. district court in West Palm Beach.
Terms of the settlement were confidential; but the families were seeking tens of millions of dollars.
Two Brazilian companies purchased Chiquita in 2015, and moved its U.S. headquarters from Cincinnati to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
It was just one of many lawsuits Chiquita has faced since 2007 when it became the only American corporation ever to confess to financing a designated global terrorist group in a U.S. criminal case. It agreed to pay a $25 million fine.
Chiquita general counsel Robert Olson was deeply involved in advising the company to make the illegal payments and has always argued that it was the right move at the time. The money bought protection for the company’s employees and banana plantations. But it also paid to better arm the rebels.
Warned by outside counsel that funding foreign terrorists is a federal crime, court records show that Olson responded, “Just let them sue us, come at us.”
For more than 10 years Olson and Chiquita have been living with the constant threat of litigation over that decision.
The indictments by the Colombian Attorney General’s Office are the first in Colombia, but more charges are expected, according to news reports. The payments took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s. There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity.