Amazon Defense Coalition
15 December 2012 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito, Ecuador – An oil industry "witness" that Chevron unveiled this week will face a defamation lawsuit in Ecuador for lying in a sworn affidavit and for participating in the company's fraudulent remediation to evade a $19 billion liability, say representatives of the villagers who brought the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs criticized the witness, Fernando Reyes, as a marginal player in Ecuador's oil industry who lied repeatedly in his affidavit in exchange for money or some other benefit. Chevron submitted the affidavit last week to a court in New York.
"Reyes has always been a man who sells himself to the highest bidder, and for that reason and others he cannot be trusted," said Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the affected communities in Ecuador that won the $19 billion judgment.
Fajardo released a statement saying that during the eight-year trial in Ecuador Reyes repeatedly tried "to insinuate himself as a technical expert in the case to make as much money as possible". He also said Reyes would be subject to a defamation lawsuit because of claims in his affidavit. See Fajardo's statement here.
Fajardo said he explored using Reyes as a court-nominated expert in the trial but never hired him because of his lack of integrity when it came to analyzing the scientific evidence before the court. The rainforest communities did use Reyes to monitor technical aspects of the trial for a short period of time, said Fajardo.
Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the rainforest communities, said Reyes was known in Ecuador as "an apologist for the oil industry" who was open to joining forces with any party that would pay him enough.
"Reyes is yet another Chevron witness peddling junk science and fake facts," said Hinton.
Other witnesses in the Ecuador matter presented by Chevron who ended up having little or no credibility include:
- Diego Borja, a field worker for Chevron's legal team who admitted to helping the company corrupt scientific evidence during the trial while being paid at least $2.2 million in fees and other benefits.
- Sara Portilla, Borja's wife who ran Chevron's supposedly "independent" lab in Ecuador while her husband manipulated soil samples at the well sites; she now works for Chevron in the U.S.
- John Conner, a Houston-based technical expert who wrote a "playbook" directing the company's technicians to find only "clean" soil samples during the judicial inspections process; Conner has testified that Chevron paid his company at least $8 million for working in Ecuador.
- Ralph Marquez, formerly the lead lobbyist for the chemical industry in Texas who worked as in "independent" monitor for the Chevron during the Ecuador trial. Marquez is a Karl Rove ally whose main expertise is using junk science to protect corporate polluters.
- Douglas Southgate, a global warming apologist and academic who worked as a consultant with Chevron.
Hinton said Chevron lawyers clearly designed the Reyes affidavit as part of its campaign to mislead shareholders and to distract attention from asset seizure actions that threaten $15 billion in company assets in Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Chevron's management team is under enormous pressure from several large shareholders for its bungling of the Ecuador lawsuit.
Reyes worked for Chevron during the mid-1990s as an expert on a "remediation" that multiple courts have found was part of the oil giant's long-running fraud in Ecuador. See here for details.Chevron only "remediated" 16% of its 916 toxic waste pits, and did so illegally by covering them with dirt rather than cleaning them of toxic sludge, according to evidence before the court.
Chevron still tries to claim that the fraudulent remediation, which resulted in a "release" from corrupt government officials in Ecuador, should shield it from liability. But no court has accepted a defense based on the release, which expressly carves out the private claims being pressed in the lawsuit.
An Ecuador court in 2011 convicted Chevron of dumping 16 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways, decimating indigenous groups and causing an outbreak of cancer that has killed or threatens to kill thousands. Punitive damages were imposed because of Chevron's attempts to threaten judges, drown the court with frivolous motions, and engage in unethical behavior during the trial.