US Chevron heading to court over Ecuador pollution case

14 October 2013 22:33  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A spokesperson for a group of Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their lead US attorney expressed confidence on Monday that Chevron will be found to have engaged in “illegal activity” provided that the plaintiffs receive a fair trial.

The plaintiffs and their lead US attorney, Steven Donziger, head to court on Tuesday in Manhattan, New York, having accused global energy giant Chevron of bribery in the ongoing battle over pollution allegations.

“We are confident that if there is a fair trial on the merits the overwhelming evidence will point to Chevron's illegal activity and not one shred of evidence will support the claims against Steven Donziger,” said Chris Gowen, a spokesperson for the plaintiffs.

The US-based company is seeking, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), to overturn a $19bn (€14bn) judgement by an Ecuadorian court in February 2011 that found US oil company Texaco, which was bought by Chevron in 2001, guilty of dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Chevron rejects the ruling as illegitimate, saying that the plaintiffs won the judgement fraudulently and broke US laws against extortion, witness tampering, obstruction of justice and money laundering.

Chevron did not return a request for comment on Monday.

In a 43-page court filing, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and Donziger have accused the oil giant of engaging in a “pattern of misconduct and corruption” by offering “illicit payments and outright bribes to secure favourable testimony”.

One of the most damning charges in the filing accuses Chevron of using Ecuadorian Judge Alberto Guerra as a conduit to offer his compatriot, Nicolas Zambrano, the judge who issued the ruling against Chevron, a $1m bribe “in exchange for his own false testimony”.

The filing also accuses Chevron of paying Guerra at least $326,000 through 2015 as compensation for “favourable testimony and cooperation”.

In January, Chevron said that it had helped Guerra and his family relocate to the US on safety grounds and had paid him $38,000 in exchange for his assistance.

Chevron has said the claims “have no merit and are made in bad faith”.

Since the 2011 ruling, lawyers for the Ecuadorians have tried unsuccessfully to have the judgement enforced through the seizure of Chevron’s foreign assets.

In May, a Canadian court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction to enforce the award, while the following month Argentina’s Supreme Court revoked a freeze on up to $19bn of assets held by Chevron’s Argentine subsidiary.

Additional reporting by Simon West

($1 = €0.74)

By: Jeremy Pafford
+1 713 525 2653

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