Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Court Orders Deposition of Chevron Contractor

Judge Says Evidence Suggests Borja Was Not "Innocent Third Party" but "Longtime Associate" Whom Chevron "Would Pay for Any Favorable Testimony"

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
16 September 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

Ordering that a Chevron contractor be deposed to explain his involvement in the oil giant's attempts to derail a multi-billion environmental lawsuit against it in Ecuador, a federal district court judge has ruled that evidence suggests Diego Borja is a "longtime associate of Chevron's whom Chevron would pay for any favorable testimony."

"longtime associate of Chevron's whom Chevron would pay for any favorable testimony." San Francisco Magistrate Judge Edward M. Chen ordered Borja to appear on October 1st in San Francisco, near his San Ramon home, where Chevron paid to re-locate him from Ecuador, after he and an accomplice secretly videotaped a judge hearing the lawsuit. Last year Chevron released the videotape to the news media and accused the judge of bribery. Borja lives only a few miles away from Chevron's corporate headquarters in San Ramon.

"The subpoena is important because Borja has bragged about being at the epicenter of Chevron's fraudulent activities in Ecuador," said Karen Hinton, spokesperson for the Amazon Defense Coalition.

Investigations conducted by the news media and the Ecuadorians suing Chevron found that Borja had threatened to turn evidence in the lawsuit against the company if they did not pay him for making the videotapes and that his accomplice, Wayne Hansen, was a convicted felon who had been sentenced for two years in a federal prison for drug trafficking.

In his order, Chen wrote: "there is evidence ... suggesting that Mr. Borja was not an innocent third party who just happened to learn of the alleged bribery scheme but rather was a long-time associate of Chevron whom Chevron would pay for any favorable testimony."

Chen also noted that Chevron was using the videotapes that Borja made as evidence that the Ecuadorian court is corrupt and biased against the company and plans to call Borja as a witness should an international arbitration court agree to hear its claims.

The government of Ecuador and the Ecuadorians suing Chevron are awaiting a decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on their request to stay Chevron's arbitration claim on grounds that the international panel does not have jurisdiction. The government of Ecuador asked Chen's court, the Northern District Court of California, this past Friday to order the deposition.

Borja, who has worked for Chevron in Ecuador from at least 2004 until the video scandal erupted in 2009, has been taped in phone conversations saying he has incriminating evidence that would cause Chevron to lose the Ecuador environmental litigation, according to papers filed September 10th in federal court in San Francisco. Chevron paid for Borja to relocate to the United States, where he remains on the company payroll while living in a luxury house abutting a golf course in a gated community.

Borja has failed to turn over the incriminating evidence, but representatives of the plaintiffs have long charged the oil giant with engaging in corrupt practices to undermine the trial.

The court filings, made by the American law firm Winston & Strawn on behalf of Ecuadorian authorities fighting Chevron over an international arbitration claim, seek to depose Borja about his involvement in the sting operation, conducted with Borja's sidekick Wayne Hansen. In 2009, both Borja and Hansen used cameras hidden in a pen and a watch to secretly tape meetings with the trial judge presiding over the environmental case, and supposed government officials.

The men then turned over the tapes to Chevron, which posted them on YouTube. Chevron initially alleged the tapes showed an attempted bribery of the judge, but it was only the Chevron employee who discussed the bribe, and the judge was never in a meeting when a bribe was discussed.

Despite this fact, Chevron lawyer Andrea Neuman told the Los Angeles/San Francisco Daily Journal that the judge was seen on the tapes "soliciting" a bribe. It also turned out that Hansen was a convicted drug trafficker with a history of legal problems, and had been lying about owning a remediation company, which stood to benefit from a judgment ordering a clean-up of the oil disaster. Click here for more information about Borja and Hansen.

For more than a year, many journalists and the falsely accused judge have questioned the credibility of Chevron's claims. The judge and representatives of the plaintiffs have charged that the sting was likely orchestrated by Chevron's U.S. legal counsel, and could expose the company to potential civil and criminal liability in the U.S. and Ecuador, said Hinton. Chevron's lawyers have admitted meeting with Borja in the United States before the only meeting where the issue of a bribe was raised.

The court documents supporting Borja's subpoena make it plain that:

  • Chevron claimed in a press release that Borja was a "Good Samaritan," when in fact he was working under the direction of Chevron's legal team since at least 2004, and he himself said he was responsible for "dirty tricks" during the trial;
  • Borja formed four dummy companies for Chevron to make the work he did for Chevron appear independent;
  • Borja's wife also worked for Chevron, and both he and his wife signed documents as representatives of Severn Trent Labs, a supposedly independent laboratory used to test soil and water samples from the litigation;
  • Borja and his Chevron "boss" attempted to infiltrate a lab used by the plaintiffs using false names.

Among Borja's quotes from the tapes cited in the legal papers is the following passage:

"... I have correspondence [with Chevron officials] that talks about things you can't even imagine, dude... they're things that can make the Amazons win this just like this [snapping fingers]... I mean, what I have is conclusive evidence, photos of how they managed things internally."

The tapes were made by Santiago Escobar, a childhood friend of Borja's who lives in Canada. They have been turned over to authorities in Ecuador and the United States.

Escobar had told journalists that Borja indicated to him on several occasions that he has carried out a series of clandestine "dirty tricks" operations on behalf of Chevron over a series of years. In June 2009, Escobar said Borja told him he arranged "the biggest business deal of his life" that would "take down the lawsuit" and that he had received a "ton of money" from Chevron for his work.