The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice: Former Judge Admits Corruption in Chevron Case
Former Judge Admits Corruption in Chevron Case
As some of you may know, I have been following the Chevron case in Ecuador, which is by all appearances the largest single extortion attempt in commercial history. (Full disclosure: Chevron advertises in National Review and has donated to the National Review Institute.) In fact, I was en route to Quito via the NRI Summit this weekend when my planned meetings were mysteriously canceled. Now I knowwhy:
In a sworn declaration filed today in New York federal court, Alberto Guerra, who presided over the case when it was first filed in 2003, reveals that he was paid thousands of dollars by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and a subsequent judge, Nicholas Zambrano, for illegally ghostwriting judicial orders issued by Zambrano and steering the case in the plaintiffs’ favor. Guerra, who is no longer a judge, attests that the plaintiffs’ lawyers were permitted to draft the $18 billion judgment in their own favor after they promised to pay Zambrano a $500,000 bribe out of the judgment’s enforcement proceeds, and that Guerra then reviewed the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ draft for Zambrano before the judge issued it as his own. . . .
Guerra’s declaration, which is corroborated by computer, bank, and shipping records, as well as the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ own internal e-mails, provides a direct account of corruption that has tainted the trial for years. Guerra describes multiple meetings with the plaintiffs’ lawyers and representatives – namely, New York-based Steven Donziger, Pablo Fajardo, and Luis Yanza – to discuss payoffs, kickbacks, and the ghostwriting of court orders favorable to the plaintiffs.
Which is to say, the plaintiffs’ lawyers apparently wrote a settlement in their own favor — a settlement based on the results of a “third party” scientific study also ghostwritten by the plaintiffs.
The Chevron case is an inexplicable mess of nested fraud schemes and bribery, the sort of thing that would be an international scandal if the victim were any entity other than a multinational oil company. Chevron simply is not a sympathetic defendant. Never mind the rule of law — the Chevron-Ecuador fiasco is a case study in the rule of P.R.
But the United States government still has a Department of State and a Department of Commerce, both of which ought to be keenly interested in the fact that corrupt representatives of a foreign power are trying to shake down the shareholders of a U.S.-based firm for tens of billions of dollars. The major shareholders of Chevron are not monocle-wearing plutocrats, but regular-guy mutual-fund investors andretired schoolteachers from San Bernardino. Surely this government has a responsible to protect them from theft?
The Obama administration is of course nowhere to be seen in this. We can dole out billions to vaporous “green energy” companies but we do nothing when somebody is trying to plunder billions of dollars from an oil company. Curious fact: As a senator, Barack Obama did see fit to intervene in the Chevron case — on the side of the Ecuadoran government. After meeting with an old basketball buddy — the abovementioned Mr. Donziger, who stands to make billions of dollars as the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case — Barack Obama wrote a letter to the U.S. trade representative arguing that Ecuador’s actions should not be held against the regime when negotiating trade privileges. Donziger, with the help of a $10,000-a-month lobbyist, also got Andrew Cuomo to threaten to intervene in the case, even though the jurisdiction of the Empire State stops well north of Ecuador.
A leftist autocrat is attempting to plunder billions of shareholders’ dollars from a U.S.-based firm operating in a critical economic sector. If government exists to do anything, it exists to protect life and property. The administration has a responsibility to act — but that’s hard to do with the president on the wrong side.
Source: National Review Online
Chevron’s New Ecuador Witness Linked to Drug Traffickers and Bribery Attempt
NEW YORK, Jan. 30 /CSRwire/ – Chevron’s latest paid witness in the historic $19 billion Ecuador environmental case, disgraced former judge Alberto Guerra, has a long history of corruption and was dismissed from the bench in 2008 for his ties to drug traffickers, according to published reports.
Chevron also admitted to the media – before it suddenly removed the statement from its blog – that it had promised to pay Guerra at least $326,000 for his efforts, or roughly ten times the annual salary of a provincial court judge in Ecuador.
Guerra this week admitted in a sworn affidavit released by Chevron that he openly sought a $500,000 bribe from the oil company in exchange for exercising his influence over the court to engineer a favorable verdict for the company. Guerra also claimed that he was paid to help write court opinions in favour of the plaintiffs, a claim the plaintiffs categorically deny.
In the meantime, proof has been mounting that Guerra engaged in multiple acts of corruption in Ecuador, lied repeatedly in his affidavit, and did in fact accept substantial payments from Chevron as part of the oil company’s own illegal acts to sabotage the trial. The proof includes:
- Guerra claims he was dismissed from the bench in Ecuador for only “political reasons” when the Ecuadorian press widely reported it also was the result of his freeing over 30 criminals, including known drug traffickers, without any legitimate legal basis;
- Guerra’s fellow judges on the provincial court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, also accused him of having links to drug traffickers and Colombian guerrillas; and
- The President of the Supreme Court of Justice lodged an official complaint against Guerraover his “lack of integrity and lack of legal principles” to carry out public duties.
- Even Chevron itself called Guerra “not competent” in 2003 (see here) when he presided over the environmental case during the first seven months of the trial &ndash although the company this week refused to disclose that fact in its press release.
- In exchange for the affidavit, Chevron admitted it paid Guerra the whopping sum of $38,000 up front (itself more than his annual salary as a judge), gave him financial assistance to move to the U.S. from Ecuador with four family members, and promised him an additional $12,000 monthly for rent and living expenses plus reimbursements for health insurance and any legal fees he might incur, Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson admitted to the media on Monday.
Later in the day, all references to the payments to Guerra were removed from the company’s blog.
Evidence shows that Chevron has a long history in Ecuador of offering payments to witnesses, fabricating scientific evidence, trying to intimidate judges, and trying to corrupt the trial. In fact, the company was hit with a $9.6 billion punitive damages penalty for trying to undermine the administration of justice in the country.
- Chevron ordered its technical experts to only lift soil samples from “clean” areas far away from its toxic waste pits in order to deceive the court. Chevron also hid its dirty soil samplesfrom the court by having them processed at an undisclosed secret lab.
- In December 2012, Chevron put forward witness Fernando Reyes to refute claims made by the plaintiffs. It turns out that Chevron never disclosed that Reyes worked for the company on a sham remediation in the 1990s that the company still tries to use as a defense.
- In late 2001, Chevron was caught offering a $1 billion bribe to Ecuador’s government to violate its own Constitution and quash the case.
- Chevron also offered a lucrative lifetime benefits package to a former contractor, Diego Borja, to try to entrap a sitting judge in a video scandal. Even though the Borja scheme backfired, Chevron paid him at least $2.2 million since 2009, moved him and his family to the U.S., paid his luxury housing expenses and covered all his legal fees – this after describing him as a “Good Samaritan.” For the full story on Borja see here and here.
- Borja also admitted that Chevron bribed the Ecuadorian army in 2005 to allege that local indigenous leaders were planning a terrorist attack against Chevron’s lawyers. The accusation forced the cancellation of an essential judicial inspection of a contaminated Chevron well site during the trial.
- Chevron also was caught threatening judges with jail time if they did not rule in the company’s favor.
Source: CSR wire
Payoffs to Ex-Judge Are Latest Twist in Chevron Case
The latest plot twist comes via a Jan. 28 federal court filing in New York by lawyers for the oil company, which almost exactly two years ago was hit by the monster verdict in connection with contamination in the Amazon jungle in eastern Ecuador. In the filing, a former Ecuadorian judge named Alberto Guerra, who for a time presided over the case in 2003, says under oath that he was paid thousands of dollars by lawyers representing jungle residents for illegally ghostwriting judicial orders favoring the plaintiffs and issued under the name of a subsequent judge in the case.
Guerra, whom Ecuadorian judicial officials forced off the bench in 2008, says he secretly drafted the rulings for Nicolas Zambrano, the judge under whose name the historic February 2011 judgment against Chevron was issued. In addition, Guerra alleges that Zambrano told him that he allowed the plaintiffs’ legal team, led by New York lawyer Steven Donziger, to draft the final trial judgment in exchange for a promise of $500,000 to be paid to Zambrano out of the plaintiffs’ recovery. (Zambrano has also been fired as a judge under a cloud of alleged corruption related to drug-trafficking cases.)
“I was Mr. Zambrano’s ‘ghostwriter,’ and I wrote the great majority of the rulings issued in civil cases assigned to Mr. Zambrano, including the Chevron case,” Guerra says in his sworn statement. “Mr. Donziger thanked me for my work as ghostwriter in this case and for helping steer the case in favor of the plaintiffs.” Guerra provided bank records and other documentary evidence to back up his allegations.
Photograph by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Image
Chevron had previously accused Donziger, his Ecuadorian lawyer allies, and Ecuadorian judges and court officials of corruption. The oil company has sued Donziger and the others in federal court in New York on civil racketeering charges. “Another participant in the fraud has now come forward rather than wait to be exposed by others,” Hewitt Pate, general counsel for Chevron, said in a press release. Chevron contests the human-health dangers of oil contamination in a Rhode Island-sized swath of jungle; whatever pollution that persists, the company contends, should be blamed on Petroecuador, the national oil company that took over the Ecuadorian industry after Texaco was kicked out in 1992.
Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for Donziger and the plaintiffs, countered that Chevron had bought false testimony from Guerra. She called it “tantamount to bribery.”
Kent Robertson, a spokesman for Chevron, acknowledged in an interview that the company has paid Guerra and has promised to pay him more. Chevron paid the former Ecuadorian judge $38,000 “for information,” some of which was stored on cell phones and computer drives, Robertson said. The company has helped Guerra and four members of his family move from Ecuador to the U.S., and has promised to provide the former jurist and his relatives with $12,000 a month for housing and other living expenses for the next two years, Robertson added. Chevron has also told Guerra that it will pay for health insurance for the family and for legal representation, should Guerra need it. “Guerra asked to come to the United States out of concern for his safety and the safety of his family,” Robertson said. “We agreed to help.”
Hinton ascribed Chevron’s actions to “desperate measures to shore up its ailing legal position” after Judge Zambrano found the company liable for contamination from 1964 to 1992 by Texaco, a company which Chevron acquired in 2001. “Guerra has no credibility,” Hinton added. “Chevron CEO John Watson has resorted to authorizing the offering of lucrative benefits packages to former Ecuadorian judges in return for false testimony.”
The litigation against Texaco began in New York in 1993. Texaco fought for nine years to get the case dismissed on the theory that Ecuador was a more appropriate forum to sort out pollution liability in the rainforest. Praising Ecuador’s judicial system, the oil company won that fight. Then, after the plaintiffs refiled the case in 2003 in Ecuador, Chevron encountered an Ecuadorian court in which Donziger and his team had considerable success keeping the multinational corporation on the defensive.
Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras
Gustavo López Ospina
Pieter Jan Brouwer
Assistant: Emilia Romero
The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice is associated with the International Environmental Mission, a grass roots citizens movement created by Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier.
SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer.