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Alberto Guerra, a former Ecuadorian judge, who was involved in the case against Chevron Corp. that eventually issued a $19 billion judgement against the oil company for its role in polluting vast swathes of the Amazonian rainforest, has admitted that he and his colleague had accepted bribes.
During a new case, taking place in a Manhattan court room, Chevron is trying to prevent Ecuador’s lawyers from enforcing the $19 billion judgement in other countries where Chevron has operating assets.
Guerra took to the stand on Wednesday to confess that he was paid thousands of dollars in bribes by the plaintiff’s lawyers in order to rule in their favour. He also stated that another judge, Nicolas Zambrano, responsible for actually issuing the $19 billion judgement, was promised $500,000 from the damages paid.
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When questioned why Chevron had received favour in some rulings if he was being paid by the Ecuadorians, Guerra explained that “it could not seem as though all of the orders were being issued for the benefit of the plaintiffs. The idea was to not have it look suspicious.”
Guerra said that he was often bribed via deposits made into his bank account, or through envelopes filled with notes. Zambrano has denied all allegations that he accepted bribes from the plaintiffs.
Chevron states that Manhattan-based lawyer Steven Donziger, who led the legal team for the plaintiffs, tried to “defraud and extort Chevron is the fact that Ecuador’s judiciary has developed systemic weaknesses and corruption. The conspirators are aware of this fact, and have sought to exploit it.” They claim that Donziger lobbied judges outside of the court and intimidated them, but Donziger says that his acts were lawful and that Chevron had engaged in similar tactics.
Donziger also claims that Chevron has paid Guerra $326,000 for his cooperation and favourable testimony, but Guerra argues that the money was merely for evidence that he helped gather.
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The entire case started when Ecuador accused Texaco Inc. of dumping toxic drilling waste in pits throughout the Lago Agrio region from 1964 to 1992, damaging about 1,500 square miles of Amazonian rainforest. When Chevron bought Texaco in 2001, the case was directed against them.
Chevron have refused to accept the $19 billion judgement, saying that Petroecuador, the former joint-venture partner of Texaco, was responsible for most of the pollution, and that Texaco had already made deals in 1995 and 1998 to pay $40 million to cover its share of the clean-up, releasing it from reliability.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com