Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Chevron's New Ecuador Witness Linked to Drug Traffickers and Bribery Attempt

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

New York, NY – Chevron's latest paid witness in the historic $19 billion Ecuador environmental case, disgraced former judge Alberto Guerra, has a long history of corruption and was dismissed from the bench in 2008 for his ties to drug traffickers, according to published reports.

Chevron also admitted to the media – but did not include in its press release – that the company had promised to pay Guerra at least $326,000 for his efforts, or roughly ten times the annual salary of a provincial court judge in Ecuador.

Guerra this week admitted in a sworn affidavit released by Chevron that he openly sought a $500,000 bribe from the oil company in exchange for exercising his influence over the court to engineer a favorable verdict for the company. Guerra also claimed that he was paid to help write court opinions in favour of the plaintiffs, a claim the plaintiffs categorically deny.

In the meantime, proof has been mounting that Guerra engaged in multiple acts of corruption in Ecuador, lied repeatedly in his affidavit, and did in fact accept substantial payments from Chevron as part of the oil company's own illegal acts to sabotage the trial. The proof includes:

  • Guerra claims he was dismissed from the bench in Ecuador for only "political reasons" when the Ecuadorian press widely reported it also was the result of his freeing over 30 criminals, including known drug traffickers, without any legitimate legal basis;
  • Guerra's fellow judges on the provincial court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, also accused him of having links to drug traffickers and Colombian guerrillas; and
  • The President of the Supreme Court of Justice lodged an official complaint against Guerra over his "lack of integrity and lack of legal principles" to carry out public duties.
  • Even Chevron itself called Guerra "not competent" in 2003 (see here) when he presided over the environmental case during the first seven months of the trial – although the company this week refused to disclose that fact in its press release.
  • In exchange for the affidavit, Chevron admitted it paid Guerra the whopping sum of $38,000 up front (itself more than his annual salary as a judge), gave him financial assistance to move to the U.S. from Ecuador with four family members, and promised him an additional $12,000 monthly for rent and living expenses plus reimbursements for health insurance and any legal fees he might incur, Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson admitted to the media on Monday.

Evidence shows that Chevron has a long history in Ecuador of offering payments to witnesses, fabricating scientific evidence, trying to intimidate judges, and trying to corrupt the trial. In fact, the company was hit with a $9.6 billion punitive damages penalty for trying to undermine the administration of justice in the country.

Examples include:

  • Chevron ordered its technical experts to only lift soil samples from "clean" areas far away from its toxic waste pits in order to deceive the court. Chevron also hid its dirty soil samples from the court by having them processed at an undisclosed secret lab.
  • In December 2012, Chevron put forward witness Fernando Reyes to refute claims made by the plaintiffs. It turns out that Chevron never disclosed that Reyes worked for the company on a sham remediation in the 1990s that the company still tries to use as a defense.
  • In late 2001, Chevron was caught offering a $1 billion bribe to Ecuador's government to violate its own Constitution and quash the case.
  • Chevron also offered a lucrative lifetime benefits package to a former contractor, Diego Borja, to try to entrap a sitting judge in a video scandal. Even though the Borja scheme backfired, Chevron paid him at least $2.2 million since 2009, moved him and his family to the U.S., paid his luxury housing expenses and covered all his legal fees – this after describing him as a "Good Samaritan." For the full story on Borja see here and here.
  • Borja also admitted that Chevron bribed the Ecuadorian army in 2005 to allege that local indigenous leaders were planning a terrorist attack against Chevron's lawyers. The accusation forced the cancellation of an essential judicial inspection of a contaminated Chevron well site during the trial.
  • Chevron also was caught threatening judges with jail time if they did not rule in the company's favor.