Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Chevron's Desperation, Evidence Tampering, and Insults to Indigenous Culture Growing In Ecuador Trial

Oil Giant's Lawyers Concoct Fake "Forgery" to Cover Up Their Own Pattern of Unlawful Activity At Trial

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
21 December 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

Quito, Ecuador – With evidence growing that it has engaged in blatant misconduct to undermine an epic environmental trial in Ecuador, Chevron is now claiming that the fingerprint signatures of mostly illiterate indigenous persons filed years ago with the court as part of the original lawsuit were "forged" and that therefore the 17-year trial should be nullified.

The Chevron forgery claim, which was rejected as "false and desperate" by the plaintiffs, is part of the company's last-ditch scheme to derail an expected adverse judgment based on voluminous scientific evidence that it created the world's worst oil disaster, said Pablo Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorian lawyer on the case.

"This latest allegation demonstrates again that Chevron will stop at nothing to undermine the legitimate legal claims of indigenous persons fighting for their own survival in the face of Chevron's violent and unlawful assault on their culture," said Fajardo, who represents dozens of communities who charge the oil giant dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into their streams and rivers from 1964 to 1992 when it operated in Ecuador.

"The evidence at trial shows that Chevron has engaged in a pattern of unlawful, corrupt, and fraudulent activity in Ecuador over decades and that this activity has destroyed much of the rainforest and killed many of its inhabitants," he said.

In responding to Chevron's allegation that 20 of the 47 signatures on the lawsuit appear different than those on the individual's national identity cards, Fajardo explained that most of the signatories on the lawsuit have no formal education and have signed via a fingerprint only a handful of documents in their entire lives. It should thus not be surprising that any two signatures a person makes over the course of an entire life would look different, but it does not suggest fraud as Chevron claims.

"Chevron's allegation is an absolute insult to indigenous culture," said Fajardo.

Since the lawsuit was filed in 2003, the named plaintiffs at least twice have signed additional documents providing a power of attorney to Fajardo, further proving that Chevron's allegations have no basis.

The claim is based on a report by an American expert paid by Chevron, Gus R. Lesnevich, who maintains an office at the public airport in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and appears to have never traveled to Ecuador or met the indigenous plaintiffs.

Chevron faces a liability in Ecuador of up to $113 billion for creating what many experts consider the world's worst oil-related contamination – one that has persisted on land and in water for almost 50 years in an area where thousands of people live and depend on the natural environment for their survival. Chevron has admitted to dumping billions of gallons of toxic "produced water" into streams and rivers in the area to save on production costs.

The trial judge on Friday of last week closed the evidentiary phase after seven years of hard-fought litigation, clearing the way for a final decision in the coming months.

Chevron's latest allegation was made by R. Hewitt Pate, the company's General Counsel, in a press release issued on Monday. Pate – a former Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice – claimed the "forgery" was suddenly "discovered" one business day after the judge closed the evidentiary period despite the fact Chevron had the signatures since May of 2003.

Pate is leading Chevron's scheme to engage in unlawful conduct in Ecuador, said Fajardo. The scheme includes making illegal payments to local military officials to pressure the court on Chevron's behalf, offering payment to a journalist to spy on the plaintiffs and bribes to a supposed government official, and the mounting of a sting operation against a former trial judge who was prepared to issue a ruling in the case, he said.

"Chevron's Board of Directors cannot continue to ignore the mounting evidence of illegal activity and fraud on the part of the company's legal team in the United States and in Ecuador," said Fajardo. "We intend to seek full redress of the harm that has been done in the name of Chevron's shareholders and to hold accountable all individuals in Chevron who have participated in this unlawful scheme."

The latest allegation is only the most recent of the many false statements and blatant misconduct coming from Chevron's legal team, including:

  • Two Chevron officials are under criminal indictment in Ecuador for falsely certifying the results of purported environmental remediation in the 1990s. The false certifications have been presented by the company to various courts in Ecuador and the U.S.
  • A key member of Chevron's Ecuador legal team, Diego Borja, has admitted in a series of taped conversations that the oil giant "cooked" evidence in the trial and switched soil samples to hide proof of the contamination it caused.
  • Borja also said he has spirited away evidence of Chevron's misconduct that if known would immediately allow the plaintiffs to win the case.
  • Chevron's lawyers used videos shot by a convicted American drug trafficker, Wayne Hansen, to make false allegations of bribery that forced the recusal of a judge who previously presided over the case.
  • Chevron hired the American investigative firm Kroll to try to pay a journalist to secretly spy on the plaintiffs in Ecuador.
  • Chevron for a period of years was paying local military officials in Ecuador to allow its lawyers to live on an army base where a false report was issued to pressure the court to delay the trial. The company later gifted a luxury villa to base commanders.
  • Due to a series of anonymous threats, members of the plaintiff's team are now protected by armed bodyguards. Chevron has never condemned the threats, which has led to protective action being ordered by the Organization of American States.

"Chevron is reaching deeper into its bad of dirty tricks because it knows the evidence is against it and judgment day is near," said Fajardo.

As a result of Chevron's pollution, several indigenous groups in Ecuador have been decimated and more than 9,000 people are at significant risk of contracting cancer in the coming decades, according to reports submitted to the court. Scientific evidence at trial definitively proves that all of Chevron's 378 well and production sites, most of which were built in the 1970s, are extensively contaminated.