Chevron, Trying to Fight Ecuador Lawsuit, Now Claiming Plaintiffs Don't Really Exist
Event In Amazon Jungle Puts Lie to Oil Giant's Latest Desperate Tactic
Amazon Defense Coalition
28 January 2011 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Lago Agrio, Ecuador – Several indigenous plaintiffs in the historic environmental lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador came together this week at one of the oil giant's polluted well sites in the Amazon rainforest to once again "prove" they are real in light of Chevron's latest legal motion claiming they don't really exist.
Chevron's legal team in Ecuador, which has been sanctioned recently for filing frivolous motions to delay the trial, had asked the court in December to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that one of its paid American "experts" determined that the signatures of 20 of the 48 named plaintiffs had been forged by their attorneys. The case has been on trial in Ecuador since 2003 and is nearing a final judgment, with the top end of damages estimated at $113 billion.
Chevron is accused of deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon from 1964 to 1990, when it operated a huge oil concession. The disaster is considered by some experts to be the worst oil-related environmental problem in the world today, with an area the size of Rhode Island laden with toxins.
Chevron's lawyers had claimed that there were discrepancies between some of the signatures on the lawsuit filed in 2003 and the same signatures attached to national identity cards in Ecuador. In disputing the allegation, the plaintiffs had accused Chevron of engaging in "desperate" tactics to derail a lawsuit it is losing based on the scientific evidence.
Pablo Fajardo, the lead attorney in Ecuador, said any discrepancies resulted from the fact the indigenous plaintiffs rarely sign their names to documents and thus any two signatures from the same person usually look slightly different. Chevron's American expert, Gus Lesovich, clearly had no understanding of this critical issue when he reached his flawed conclusions, said Fajardo.
Thirteen of the individual plaintiffs who were accused of having their signatures forged appeared this week before a notary to affirm that it was in fact their signatures on the lawsuit against Chevron. Each of the individuals stated that their signatures were their own.
"I find it humiliating that Chevron has said that the signatures are not genuine, and so I am here in person to sign with my own handwriting, yet again, and thus affirm the contamination that they have caused," stated Hugo Camacho, President of the Pimanpiro community in the province of Orellana.
"It is not enough for [Chevron] to have killed our people, killed our rivers and our air, but now they are treating us like common criminals, like forgers. This is an outrageous indignity," added Camacho.
"Chevron had promised that its expert analysis ‘proved’ that the signatures were false," said Karen Hinton, spokeswoman for the plaintiffs. "But we now know that the only thing that has been ‘made clear’ is Chevron’s willingness to hire and pay any expert to make inaccurate claims to derail a lawsuit where it faces an enormous liability."
The latest expert report by Lesovich is just one of many improper allegations put forth by the company as the 17-year litigation has entered its final stages.
Examples of Chevron’s improper tactics in the litigation include putting out fake news reports that appear independent, trying to pay a journalist to spy on the plaintiffs, setting up dummy corporations in Ecuador to hide the company's role in testing soil samples, and mounting a sting operation to entrap an Ecuadorian judge presiding over the case. The company has also bombarded the Ecuador court with frivolous motions, leading to sanctions against its legal team.
The plaintiffs recently filed the first part of their final argument finding that "there is irrefutable evidence of contamination" at every one of Chevron's 45 former well and oil production sites inspected by the parties during the trial. The chemicals and compounds found – all of which are toxic and some of which are known carcinogens – include barium, benzene, cadmium, chromium, copper, etheylbenzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, vanadium, xylene, and zinc.
"The evidence makes it clear and unmistakable that Chevron is guilty," the summary of the alegato concludes. "Guilty of polluting the rainforest with toxic sludge from lucrative oil drilling operations, guilty of a shoddy and haphazard cleanup operation, guilty of letting toxic waste continue to devastate the rainforest and its inhabitants' lives, and perhaps worst of all, guilty of trying to cover it all up by destroying documents and making false accusations of fraud before courts in the U.S. and Ecuador."