Federal Indictment

With power and money came scrutiny. In 1979, a federal grand jury indicted Garry Neil, two other Drummond executives and three Alabama lawmakers in an alleged scheme to influence the legislators by, among other things, providing them with prostitutes. After an 11-week trial, Judge Frank McFadden dismissed the case without letting it go to the jury. Today, McFadden declines to comment on the matter and suggests looking up his rulings in the docket. However, the entire record of the case has been sealed, according to the U.S. District Court in Birmingham.

The Drummond family spends tens of thousands of dollars on political donations in election years. In the 2012 cycle, Garry Neil alone gave $67,800 to candidates and political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. The company is the third-biggest donor to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, behind power generator Southern Co. -- still a big Drummond customer -- and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Bombing Railway

In the 1980s, Garry Neil started prospecting in Colombia. Making money there meant mining amid a civil war. Soon after Drummond opened his first mine in 1995, the FARC started bombing the railway that carries coal to Drummond’s Caribbean port. In 1999, according to Collingsworth’s complaint, Drummond began paying the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) for protection. In court documents, Drummond Co. denies making any such payments.

Other companies have acknowledged paying the AUC. Chiquita Brands International Inc. in 2007 pleaded guilty to U.S. charges that it paid the AUC more than $1.7 million to protect its banana plantations from 1997 to 2004. The payments were illegal because the U.S. had designated the AUC a terrorist organization in 2001. Chiquita agreed to pay a $25 million fine. No executives were charged.

AUC gunmen first arrived in the town of Becerril, about 15 miles from one of Drummond’s mines, in 1997 or 1998, according to Victoria Sanchez, 32. She fled in 2003 after a death squad took her father from his house and murdered him. He was a butcher with no connection to the Drummond union.

Death Squad

Yameris Herrera, 45, also ran for her life in 2002 after the murder of her father, a farmer, and her uncle. Herrera’s mother discovered their tortured bodies after returning to the family farm from a trip to town. Her husband had been cut to pieces. Her brother’s head was severed.

“They thought all the farmers were guerrillas,” Herrera says in an interview in Bogota.

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