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DEL MONTE'S CABAL IS WANTED FOR FRAUD

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's attorney general issued an arrest warrant earlier this month for Carlos Cabal Peniche, chairman of Del Monte Fresh Produce and a Mexican banker.Cabal is accused by Mexican authorities of fraudulently lending himself up to $700 million to purchase a number of companies, including Del Monte Fresh, Coral Gables, Fla., according to news reports. Cabal, with the investor group Cremi-Union,

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's attorney general issued an arrest warrant earlier this month for Carlos Cabal Peniche, chairman of Del Monte Fresh Produce and a Mexican banker.

Cabal is accused by Mexican authorities of fraudulently lending himself up to $700 million to purchase a number of companies, including Del Monte Fresh, Coral Gables, Fla., according to news reports. Cabal, with the investor group Cremi-Union, purchased Del Monte Fresh in November 1992. At least nine officials from Cremi-Union already have been detained by law enforcement officials for their alleged connection with the case, according to the reports.

Cabal also acquired Del Monte's canned food business, which is based in San Francisco, and planned to merge it with the fresh-foods operations. Cabal and his investment group reportedly paid $277 million and assumed debt of about $700 million for the canned-food operations.

Del Monte Fresh is the leading supplier of fresh pineapple, melons and tomatoes to U.S. supermarkets.

News accounts said government officials here believe Cabal has left Mexico and possibly is in the United States.

Mexican officials said the investigation into possible irregularities at Cabal's banks began last January, according to the news reports.

Del Monte Fresh's business in the United States was expected to continue as usual, despite the allegations against Cabal.

"It's business as usual here," Howard Nager, marketing director for Del Monte Fresh, said early this month. "Our day-to-day operations are continuing. We are not cutting back on programs or products. Our financial position is unaffected, and all our obligations are being met."

Moody's Investor Services said it is reviewing Del Monte's long-term debt for a possible downgrade.

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