Amazon Defense Coalition
16 February 2011 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
San Francisco, CA – Today the Northern District Court of California will hear a motion by Ecuadorian plaintiffs to compel Chevron operative Diego Borja and his wife, Sara Portilla, to be deposed on charges Chevron, with their assistance, tried to corrupt a massive oil contaminatin lawsuit in Ecuador.
Chevron's self-described "clandestine" operations agent Borja has failed to comply with a U.S. federal court order to produce subpoenaed documents and schedule a day to testify on charges that he and his wife conspired with Chevron to submit tampered evidence to the Ecuadorian court hearing the lawsuit. (Hearing is in Judge Edward Chen's chambers at 3 pm PST.)
The oil giant has been paying Borja's legal expenses, a monthly retainer and all of his living expenses since the company arranged for him to leave Ecuador and move to San Ramon, California, in June 2009. Borja and Portilla recently left California and apparently moved to Texas. Portilla also worked for Chevron and for the U.S. lab that Chevron used to test for contamination in soil and water samples taken from well sites that the company operated.
Earlier this week the Ecuadorian court found Chevron guilty of the intentional dumping of oil and toxic water into the rainforest from 1964 to 1990 and ordered the company to pay $8.6 billion in damages. Borja and Portilla's testimony is needed for the plaintiffs' appeal of that decision and to fight other charges Chevron has brought in the U.S. against the plaintiffs.
Borja has said that Chevron "cooked evidence" submitted to the Ecuadorian court and that the oil giant promised to reward him by making him a "business partner" for videotapes he turned over to high-level Chevron executives in 2009. Chevron charged the videotapes proved the Ecuadorian judge, the plaintiffs and government officials had accepted bribes; however, nowhere on the tapes do any of the people accused by Chevron accept, much less, discuss a bribe. The government of Ecuador also has subpoenaed Borja and Borja's associate, Wayne Hansen who assisted in the videotaping, however, he cannot be located to serve the subpoena. Shortly after the release of the videotapes, Hansen was found to be a convicted drug felon.
In December, the Northern District Court of California denied Borja's motion to dismiss a government of Ecuador request to depose the Ecuadorian and ordered Borja to produce certain documents within 14 days and to testify in a deposition. Borja has failed to do both.
In briefs filed with the court, attorneys for the Ecuadorian government said: "... after forcing the Ecuadorian plaintiffs to litigate their claims in Ecuadorian courts, Chevron has done everything in its power to subvert the Ecuadorian Plaintiffs pursuit of justice there ... there is evidence that suggests Chevron has taken steps to ensure that Mr. Borja and Ms. Portilla do not remain within the reach of the Ecuadorian court."
Karen HInton, a spokesperson for the Ecuadorians suing Chevron, said, "It's clear that Chevron is assisting Mr. Borja in his attempts to evade the court order and avoid testifying about the company's misconduct both in Ecuador and the U.S." Chevron is paying the fees of a high-profile San Francisco attorney to represent Borja. His attorney, Chris Arguedes, has blocked all efforts to interview Borja about his work for Chevron.
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. Click here for more information.
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.
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
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.
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.