(Aug. 3) Chiquita Brands International continued to make payments to a terrorist organization for nearly a year after being advised to stop by outside counsel and for more than nine months after being told to stop by the Justice Department, according to court documents.

The Cincinnati-based produce company agreed to a $25 million settlement in a plea agreement with the department in March, but that plea has not yet been approved in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Court documents indicate that Chiquita’s former Banadex subsidiary in Colombia made more than 100 payments of more than $1.7 million to the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia from 1997 to 2004 to protect its workers in that country.

The U.S. designated the AUC as a terrorist group in September 2001, but Chiquita made 50 more payments worth more than $825,000 before stopping in February 2004. Court records indicate that Chiquita sought the advice of outside counsel in February 2003 and was advised to stop making the illegal payments.

Chairman and chief executive officer Fernando Aguirre said during an Aug. 2 conference call to discuss the company’s second quarter performance that Chiquita was forced to choose between the law and protecting its workers.

“Each alternative was unacceptable,” said Aguirre, who was hired in January 2004 .

In April 2003, two Chiquita executives, who are not named in court documents, met with Justice Department officials and disclosed the payments. According to court documents, department officials told the executives that the payments were illegal and could not continue.

The Wall Street Journal, which identified the executives as board member Roderick Hills and former general counsel Robert Olson, reported that the executives left the meeting thinking that department officials had not offered clear guidance on the issue.