Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Chevron Using Convicted Felons to Try To Block $9.5 Billion Ecuador Pollution Judgment

Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

Toronto, Ontario – With evidence against it in the Ecuador pollution case mounting, Chevron has turned to yet another convicted felon -- former Canadian media titan Conrad Black -- to help it try to block indigenous villagers from enforcing their $9.5 billion environmental judgment in Canada, according to a new blog posted by representatives of the villagers.

Black is the second known felon that Chevron has used to try to use to evade paying the judgment, which was affirmed in 2013 in a unanimous decision by Ecuador’s Supreme Court. Chevron was found to have systematically dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into the rainforest, decimating indigenous groups and causing an outbreak of cancer. (A summary of the evidence against Chevron is here.)

"Chevron's thinking that using a convicted felon will help improve the company's tattered image in Canada suggests a profound disconnect from reality," the blog stated. "But it is depressingly consistent with the company's past behavior."

The first felon Chevron used in the Ecuador pollution case, Wayne Hansen, was a major American drug trafficker convicted of importing 275,000 pounds of marijuana from Colombia. After serving several years in a U.S. federal prison, Hansen went to Ecuador in 2009 and along with Chevron operative Diego Borja tried to entrap an Ecuadorian trial judge in a fake bribery scandal intended to sabotage the litigation, according to accounts at the time. (See here for an investigative report that provides background on Hansen.)

That plan ultimately backfired and a Chevron-paid investigative firm spirited Hansen out of the United States to Peru after he was served a subpoena seeking to depose him about his role in the entrapment scheme. (See this account in The Huffington Post.) Chevron later engaged in various acts of espionage against lawyers for the villagers, including the Manhattan-based attorney Steven R. Donziger.

Black, a resident of Toronto, recently published an op-ed article in Canada that repeated Chevron's public relations talking points and viciously attacked the rainforest villagers for seeking to enforce the environmental judgment in Canada. Chevron stripped its assets from Ecuador in 2007 – the venue where the oil company insisted the trial be held -- when an adverse decision against the company appeared imminent.

Because Chevron has refused to pay the judgment, the villagers are seeking to seize company assets to force compliance with the Ecuador court order. The villagers received a huge boost in September when Canada’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that they could go forward with their enforcement action. Chevron has more than enough assets in Canada to satisfy the entirety of the Ecuador judgment. (For background on Chevron’s increasing difficulties in Canada, see here.)

Black’s article in favor of Chevron appeared in the Canadian national newspaper he founded, The National Post. He never contacted representatives of the Ecuadorian villagers before publication. Black also relied for much of his analysis on testimony from a discredited Chevron witness paid at least $2 million by the company who has since conceded he perjured himself in open court.

In 2007, a Chicago jury convicted Black on fraud charges related to the sale of his various newspapers, which at one point comprised one of the largest media empires in the world. The jury found that Black misled investors and looted funds from a public company to support a lavish lifestyle that included the use of private jets and luxury homes around the world. (For more on Black's checkered past, see this story in Vanity Fair.)

Black was incarcerated in a federal prison for approximately four years before being deported to Canada and barred from re-entering the United States for 30 years.

The blog put out by representatives of the villagers challenged Black for using a double standard in his analysis:

"The Canada Supreme Court decision is typical in cases where a scofflaw debtor tries to evade a court judgment by selling off its assets in one country and moving them to another," the blog stated. "That's what Chevron did in Ecuador after it fought for years to venue the trial there and accepted jurisdiction.

"When a defendant loses a case and runs from the law, the judgment creditor always has a right to ask another country's courts to enforce their judgment against the defendant's assets. But according to Chevron and its new surrogate Mr. Black, an exception to this rule should be made for the long-suffering Ecuadorian villagers…

"Of course, if this were a commercial enforcement case involving one of Black's businesses that was getting stiffed in another country, he would be the first to cheer the Canada Supreme Court decision."

The villagers have criticized Chevron for playing a jurisdictional shell game to block collection of the Ecuador judgment while cancer rates in the impacted area continue to cause suffering to thousands of people.

Chevron also faces a host of other problems because of the claims of the villagers, which were initially filed in U.S. federal court in 1993 before the company had the litigation moved to Ecuador.

Chevron’s discredited star witness, the Ecuadorian citizen Alberto Guerra, recently admitted lying on the stand in a retaliatory U.S. "racketeering" trial used by Chevron to try to taint the Ecuador judgment. In apparent violation of U.S. federal law, Chevron paid Guerra huge sums for his testimony even though he had only $146 in his bank account at the time. Chevron also moved Guerra and several family members out of Ecuador to the United States.

Chevron later conceded its lawyers at the firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher coached Guerra for 53 days before he testified that a "bribe" occurred in the Ecuador case. Guerra has provided no corroborating evidence for his assertion and has conceded he lied on numerous occasions before a U.S. federal judge, as this press release and this legal filing explain.

The work of some of Chevron’s outside lawyers at Gibson Dunn also has come under increasing scrutiny with allegations that they knowingly falsified evidence in the Chevron case and in another high-profile matter in London. A federal judge in Oregon already sanctioned lawyers at Gibson Dunn for harassing a non-profit legal organization that was helping the Ecuadorian villagers.

"Without the discredited Guerra available to testify in Canada, Chevron has no real defense," the blog asserted. "Which is why Chevron and Mr. Black argue that Canada's courts should not take up the case at all."