California judge dismisses suits against Dole, rules lawyers committed fraud

Associated Press / April 25, 2009
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LOS ANGELES - In a ruling with ramifications for other countries, a California judge dismissed two lawsuits by purported Nicaraguan banana plantation workers against the US food giant Dole, finding that greedy lawyers and corrupt judges committed fraud and extortion in a blatant scheme to win billions of dollars in damages.

"This is a very sad day for me to be presiding over such a horrific situation," Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney said late Thursday. The decision was made after three days of testimony that detailed a scheme to recruit men who would claim they were rendered sterile by exposure to a pesticide in the 1970s. In most cases, the men had not worked at plantations and were not sterile. Witnesses and investigators who exposed the fraud told of fearing for their lives.

The judge denounced the lawyers who hatched the scheme and said there was a group of corrupt Nicaraguan judges "devouring bribes" to make judgments and aid the plot.

Chaney had heard testimony about a Nicaraguan judge who presided over a meeting of conspirators and advised them on how to fake lab tests.