A US federal judge ruled Tuesday in favor of Chevron in a record $19 billion-dollar judgment against the company for contaminating Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest.
A US district judge ruled that the case against Chevron in an Ecuadoran court was the product of a fraud and racketeering orchestrated by a New York lawyer, concluding that the judgment should not be enforced and possibly keeping it from international courts.
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.
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 US District Judge Lewis A. 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 on Tuesday, 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.
Chevron is also fighting a $5 billion lawsuit filed in the United States by Nigerians residing in the vicinity of a deadly offshore natural gas rig exploration in 2012.
Nigerian coastal residents filed the $5 billion lawsuit in January this year in a federal court in California, two years after the explosion at Chevron’s offshore gas exploration site in the oil-rich Niger Delta, which killed two workers, burned for 46 days and allegedly poisoned the air and water.
By James Burgess of Oilprice.com