Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Chevron Operatives Leave California After Being Called to Testify About Falsifying Evidence in Ecuador Environmental Trial

Diego Borja, Sarah Portilla, & Wayne Hansen Fighting Subpoenas Issued by U.S. Courts

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

San Francisco, CA – Chevron's self-described "clandestine" operations agent Diego Borja, his wife Sarah Portilla, and collaborator Wayne Hansen have left California after two U.S. Federal Courts authorized subpoenas to be served upon them related to charges that they tried to corrupt the environmental trial in Ecuador, where Chevron faces a potential $113 billion liability, according to representatives for Ecuadorian rainforest residents suing the company.

Diego Borja, who has emerged as a key figure on Chevron's Ecuador legal team for engaging in "dirty tricks" to undermine the 18-year litigation, has apparently vacated the luxury California home that Chevron had rented for him and Portilla since June 2009. Neighbors have said that Borja and Portilla moved to an undisclosed location in Texas.

Borja became a person of interest in the lawsuit after he was recorded last year bragging about his role in "cook(ing) evidence" for Chevron to hide illegal levels of toxic contamination and presiding over various "dirty tricks" to help the oil giant escape liability, including a video sting operation against a judge. He was moved from Ecuador, where he is under official investigation, to California at Chevron's expense and paid a monthly salary.

Borja's sudden disappearance from California was discovered when lawyers for the indigenous plaintiffs attempted to serve subpoenas on him and Portilla commanding them to testify about their roles in falsifying evidence. Portilla, who is Ecuadorian, also worked for Chevron in the Ecuador trial as part of the evidence-handling team and in setting up dummy corporations, according to legal papers.

The timing of Borja and Portilla's move is particularly suspicious given that Borja's colleague, Wayne Hansen, apparently has disappeared from his residence in Bakersfield, California. Hansen was Borja's partner in a failed "sting" operation in which they secretly recorded misleading interviews with the Ecuadorian judge formerly overseeing the environmental case.

In August 2009, Chevron released the videotapes to the news media and accused the judge of being involved in a bribery plot, even though the judge did not attend the meeting where Borja and Hansen offered a bribe and there was no evidence that the judge engaged in misconduct. The plaintiffs charged the tapes were part of a Nixon-style dirty tricks operation likely orchestrated by Chevron's lawyers in Ecuador and the United States.

Before Borja could be interviewed by Ecuadorian authorities investigating the bribery allegations, Chevron paid for his relocation to California and is now paying the fees of a high-profile San Francisco attorney to represent him. His attorney, Chris Arguedes, has blocked all efforts to interview Borja about his work for Chevron.

"We believe Chevron needs to explain whether it is actively assisting Borja and Hansen to evade the authority of the federal courts in California," said Karen Hinton, spokesperson for the Ecuadorians suing Chevron.

"Borja, Portilla, and Hansen have apparently tried to corrupt and sabotage the Ecuadorian trial by cooking false evidence to favor Chevron," she added. "It is critical that all information related to their unlawful activities in Ecuador, including any assistance provided them by Chevron employees and lawyers, be disclosed immediately before a judgment is rendered in the Ecuador court."

Since 2007, the plaintiffs have accused Chevron of evidence tampering in the trial. Borja confirmed the plaintiffs' charges when in taped conversations he admitted the company had "cooked" evidence.

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.

In legal briefs filed with the Northern District Court of California, the plaintiffs repeated Borja's statements that he collected soil samples at contaminated sites and, with Portilla's assistance, replaced contaminated samples with clean ones. Then the two, as employees of an "independent" lab, submitted them to the court as evidence.

"Borja has admitted to engaging in what he has described as a 'dirty tricks' operation, involving those soil samples, to support Chevron's litigation strategy," reads the plaintiffs' brief.

"In short, Chevron has gone to extraordinary lengths and employed the full force of its vast resources to frustrate the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' efforts to obtain a fair trial," the brief continues.

Escobar had told journalists that Borja indicated to him that he has carried out a series of clandestine operations on behalf of Chevron's trial team in Ecuador 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. He also said that if the plaintiffs knew what he knew about Chevron's corruption, they would win the trial in an instant.