Ecuador judge rejects bribery claims in Chevron case

06 April 2013 00:22  [Source: ICIS news]

MEDELLIN, Colombia (ICIS)--An Ecuadorian judge who issued an $18.2bn (€14.0bn) verdict against Chevron in a landmark pollution case rejected on Friday claims made by another judge that he accepted thousands of dollars to orchestrate a false judgement against the US-based energy company.

Nicholas Zambrano was accused in January by Alberto Guerra, who presided over the case in Ecuador in 2003, of accepting bribes to allow the plaintiffs’ attorneys to write the 188-page judgement against Chevron, in which the US-based company was found guilty of massive environmental contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Zambrano, who presided over the trial from October 2009 to February 2010, and again from October 2010 to February 2011, filed a sworn affidavit to a New York court rejecting Guerra’s claims, stating that the judgement in the case was his alone and written over months of reviewing the extensive record.

“I confirm that I am author of the judgement that I issued on 14 February 2011,” Zambrano said in his testimony.

Furthermore, Zambrano’s testimony includes allegations that Guerra told him about an offer of $1m from Chevron to buy his support.

“[Guerra] told me that Chevron was offering me a minimum of $1m to start, or for me to name the amount, whatever I wanted or, if I preferred I could travel to the United States, which they would pay for, to talk to them there in exchange for a statement in favour of Chevron,” Zambrano said.

Zambrano alleges that Guerra urged him to meet with Andres Rivero, a Miami-based attorney who worked for Chevron.

“I did not accept the proposal,” he added. “After that, Dr Guerra called me two more times to inquire about my answer. When I absolutely rejected the proposal, he did not ever call me again.”

Chevron responded by claiming that Zambrano’s allegations were “false and completely uncorroborated”.

Chevron has stood by Guerra’s sworn testimony, which it says can be corroborated by documentary evidence and provides proof of corruption that has tainted the trial for years.

The legal battle over environmental contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon allegedly caused by Texaco between 1964 and 1992 has been running for two decades. Chevron inherited the case when it bought Texaco in 2001.

In February 2011, Zambrano ordered Chevron to pay $18.2bn in compensation and clean up costs. An Ecuadorian court later increased the damages to $19bn.

Chevron has consistently rejected the court ruling, claiming it had cleaned up all waste pits before handing operations to Ecuador’s state-run oil firm Petroecuador.

Chevron will get a chance to state its case in a fraud trial set to begin in New York on 15 October.

Meanwhile, a US federal court this week rejected a request by Chevron to secure depositions and documents relating to the fraud trial from environmental group Amazon Watch.

According to Amazon Watch, Chevron lawyers accused the group of creating “petitions and demonstrations” as acts that threatened Chevron.

Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins quashed Chevron’s subpoena on the grounds of free speech as protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment, reported Reuters.

Amazon Watch welcomed the court’s decision and condemned Chevron’s “false accusations” against the environmental group.

“Even after obtaining hundreds of thousands of documents from other parties and hundreds of hours depositions, they had not a shred of evidence that Amazon Watch has done anything wrong. Of course not – because we haven’t,” the group said.

($1 = €0.77)


By: Simon West
713-525-2653



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