Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Major Flaws Emerge In Chevron Bribery Story

New Scrutiny of Chevron's Own Conduct In Possible "Dirty Tricks" Operation. Oil Giant Hiding Witnesses; DOJ Pressed to Investigate Role of Chevron Legal Team;
Company Refusing to Turn Over Evidence

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
3 September 2009 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

Quito, Ecuador – Significant flaws are emerging in Chevron's version of events surrounding a purported Ecuador bribery scandal where company officials are trying to taint a long-running trial involving a potential $27 billion liability, representatives of the Amazon indigenous communities said today.

On Tuesday, representatives of the Amazon communities said the so-called bribery scandal – which Chevron claimed implicated the judge overseeing the trial – had all the telltale signs of a Nixon-style "dirty tricks" operation orchestrated by persons working on behalf of the oil giant. It now turns out much of what Chevron claims is not supported by the evidence or has been mischaracterized by the company, said Steven Donziger, an American legal advisor to the indigenous communities of Ecuador.

The timing of the videotapes is also suspicious, given that the tapes had been in Chevron's possession for several weeks but were released on the eve of a final judgment at the trial and the theatrical opening in New York on September 9 of an acclaimed documentary film, Crude. The film casts Chevron's behavior in Ecuador in a highly unflattering light, said Donziger.

"Major holes are beginning to appear in Chevron's dazzling story of corruption and they are evident from a careful look at Chevron's own materials," said Donziger, who called on the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into possible legal violations, including any committed by Chevron officials and its representatives in Ecuador.

"It is clear from Chevron's materials that the company has a significant level of involvement with individuals trying to corrupt a foreign country's judicial system and implicate the elected President of Ecuador in a scandal – all to avoid paying a legal liability stemming from private litigation," said Pablo Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorian lawyer on the matter.

"What Chevron has done is a direct attack on the independence of Ecuador's judiciary, a direct attack on Ecuador's elected President by claiming he was involved in a bribery scheme, and an obvious interference in the sovereign affairs of a foreign nation with whom the U.S. has diplomatic relations," said Fajardo.

A further analysis of the videotapes – which were first posted by the company on YouTube on Monday of this week – reveals the following:

  • There appears to be no firm evidence that Judge Nunez said he would rule against Chevron, contrary to statements by the company in its press materials. In fact, on 13 separate occasions Nunez rebuffed leading questions posed by Borja and an American businessman, Wayne Hansen, asking how he would rule on the case. Chevron chose not to include any of these statements by the judge in the 20-minute summary video it released to the media.
  • Judge Nunez himself says the tapes were spliced and manipulated. In fact, the judge cannot be seen in the video at the moment one can hear "yes sir" in response to a question about whether Chevron is guilty, suggesting that part of the tape might have been spliced together. Yet that one comment, at best ambiguous, is the centerpiece of Chevron's media campaign on the issue that the judge already has decided how he would rule.
  • The only evidence of bribery in the videos involved a Chevron contractor, Diego Borja, and an alleged political party official in Ecuador – not trial judge Juan Nunez. This fact appears on its face to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a U.S. statute which prohibits the bribery of foreign officials by American businesses and their agents, said Donziger. Chevron recently paid a $30 million fine for violating the FCPA in a scandal linked to Iraq.
  • Chevron has stonewalled attempts to test the veracity of its claims. The company has refused to turn over the tapes for independent forensic examination; it has refused to make Chevron contractor Borja available for questioning by the media; and it has refused to provide information about the whereabouts of Hansen, the mysterious American businessman who Chevron says gave the company some of the secret recordings.
  • Chevron also has refused to say how much it paid Borja, who was spirited out of Ecuador and relocated in the U.S. under Chevron's direction and provided what Chevron described as "interim support". The company has refused to turn over the contract it had with Borja, who worked for the company during the environmental trial in Ecuador as recently as March of this year.
  • Chevron has failed to disclose the role in the scheme of its local counsel in Ecuador, Adolfo Callejas; its former General Counsel in the U.S. and current Executive Vice President, Charles James; or that of its chief outside counsel, Tim Cullen, of Jones Day in Washington, D.C. All of these individuals need to be questioned under oath, said Fajardo, because there is clear evidence from Chevron's own materials and public statements that they were connected to Borja and Hansen or otherwise involved.
  • Cullen sent a letter on behalf of Chevron to Ecuador's National Prosecutor demanding a criminal investigation of the so-called bribe. But the letter contained a significant number of exaggerations not supported by evidence – such as the charge that government officials planned to craft the judge's decision in the case. "Cullen either needs to turn over evidence to support these wild allegations, or he needs to withdraw them," said Fajardo.
  • Chevron has admitted in its materials that it was aware of the secret recordings prior to the fourth and final meeting that was taped, which Chevron says took place on June 15 of this year. Yet it was only at the fourth meeting – where the Judge was not present – that bribes were directly discussed. Chevron officials need to explain if they or anyone under their direction scripted, planned, or influenced any aspect of the fourth meeting, said Fajardo.

Chevron should immediately make fully public its witnesses and evidence, not wait for an official investigation, given that it already had released selected portions of the evidence on YouTube.

"Since Chevron wants a public trial of its evidence, it needs to make all the evidence it has available to the public immediately," said Donziger. "You can't release selective portions and hide the embarrassing portions and expect to be taken seriously."

"The full facts regarding Chevron's role and that of the judge must become known," added Fajardo. "One thing the world cannot afford is to take Chevron's word at face value."