Chevron Corp is seeking $32.3 million in legal fee reimbursements after a US federal judge ruled in its favor earlier this month in a record $19-billion judgment for contaminating Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest.
Last week, Chevron asked a federal court in New York to order Steven Donziger and others to reimburse the company for legal fees incurred in bringing fraud and racketeering charges against him.
A Chevron spokesman said in a statement that the company is "seeking to hold Mr. Donziger accountable for his actions by pursuing an award for the legal costs incurred in defending the company from his extortionate scheme and in prosecuting our successful RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] suit—an award mandated by the RICO statute."
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan said the case had been corrupted by American lawyer Steven Donziger and Ecuadorean lawyers, who allegedly submitted fraudulent evidence and coerced and bribed an Ecuadorean judge to rule in their favor in 2011.
Donziger is now being sued for alleged misconduct and fraud after being allegedly caught on video on the sidelines of filming for the documentary film “Crude” conceding that evidence had been fabricated in the case.
Donziger has filed an appeal of the racketeering verdict against him and sought an emergency stay of Judge Lewis Kaplan's decision pending the appeal.
Ecuadorian villagers had said Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992. Ecuador's high court cut the judgment to $9.5 billion last year.
In September 2013, a group of Ecuadorians had attempted to have Kaplan removed from the case. The Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejected the Ecuadorian requests to install a new judge and reverse the previous judges’ decisions.
Environmental groups say Chevron has only spent $40 million cleaning up the Amazon, but has spent more than $1 billion fighting the lawsuit.
Had the judge ruled against Chevron, the case might have gained more momentum on an international level, as would have attempts to seize Chevron’s assets in Canada, Argentina and Brazil in order to pay the $19 billion fine.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com