Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Step Towards Justice in Chevron Ecuador Contamination Case

Canadian judge rules plaintiffs can take case for asset seizure to trial

Amazon Watch

Amazon Watch
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

Communities in Ecuador moved another important step closer to justice last week when an Ontario court ruled that they have the right to go to trial in Canada against Chevron, the oil company responsible for deliberately dumping – and then refusing to clean up – 18 billion gallons of toxic waste in their Amazon rainforest homeland.

Ecuadorian communities have had to pursue Chevron all the way to Canada in an attempt to make the company pay the US $9.5 billion the Ecuadorian court ruled that Chevron owes for a full cleanup and to provide health care assistance to the 30,000 affected villagers (now US $12 billion including interest). After that 2011 ruling, Chevron concocted an elaborate retaliatory counter suit alleging fraud, which it filed in the U.S.

Last week's decision hands the Ecuadorians a big victory in its acknowledgement of their right to bring Chevron to trial in Canada so that they can disprove the baseless fraud allegations made by the oil giant. Outside of the retaliatory suit against the Ecuadorians and their counsel, every court and appellate review that has evaluated the concrete evidence in Ecuador has ruled against Chevron. Amazon Watch believes the same will happen in Ontario where, once the case goes to trial, Chevron will be forced to defend itself yet again for deliberately creating the worst oil-related environmental disaster in history.

While the Canadian court did rule that Chevron-Canada's assets cannot be seized to cover Chevron Corporation's liabilities, the legal team for the Ecuadorians fully expects that portion of the decision to be overturned on appeal. If not overturned, that decision would set a chilling precedent for corporate accountability, affording corporations virtual impunity for acts of environmental destruction and human rights violations. "Just think about it, if you have a judgment against a parent corporation, and all of its assets are in a subsidiary, how do you collect?" said Alan Lenczner, Canadian attorney for the Ecuadorians.

"Despite the fact that Chevron was found liable by Ecuador's highest court in a trial that lasted over a decade and relied upon thousands of pages of evidence and hundreds of scientific samples, the oil giant not only denied its role, it ignored the verdict and counter sued the Ecuadorians and their lawyers alleging a massive global conspiracy and claiming to be the victims of fraud. They received a favorable verdict in a shamefully biased trial in the U.S., but their version of events, on which that ruling was based, has since fallen apart," remarked Paul Paz y Miño, Associate Director at Amazon Watch.

Chevron's retaliatory lawsuit was predicated on the testimony of a corrupt witness, who has since admitted he lied in exchange for over $2 million from Chevron. Chevron's "star witness," disgraced Ecuadorian ex-judge Alberto Guerra, later recanted his testimony about the bribe he allegedly received from the Ecuadorians. Furthermore, he affirmed that he had not made an arrangement with Zambrano, the judge who presided over the Ecuadorian trial, and he had no evidence of a ghostwritten judgement. Guerra also admitted that he told Chevron what they wanted to hear to get a bigger payout. As reported by Vice News, "in testimony before the tribunal, Guerra admitted that at this point he tried to get more money from Chevron. 'At some point, I said, well, why don't you add some zeroes to that amount, and then later on I said, I think it could be 50,000.'"

Further disproving Chevron's claims of fraud, since the initial verdict in Chevron's retaliatory counter suit the government of Ecuador has produced an independent expert forensic report of the computer of Judge Zambrano, which invalidates the company's arguments that the judgement had been written by third parties. Now, the company will have to respond for those falsehoods before a Canadian judge.

"As has happened time and again, Chevron will once again be exposed as nothing more than a corporate criminal trying to cover up its crimes by bribing witnesses and falsifying evidence. The affected Ecuadorian communities have waited too long for justice. Chevron should finally accept the reality that it will not escape its deeds in Ecuador and it's time to clean up its toxic mess before another life if lost in Ecuador," said Kevin Koenig, Ecuador Program Director at Amazon Watch.