Chevron apparently got caught with its hand in the cookie jar again in its long-running campaign to weasel out of its $19 billion legal obligation in Ecuador.
Only this time the company tripped all over itself, producing a tape in federal court made by company lawyer Andres Rivero that can only be described as staggering in its stupidity.
This might keep the fraud division of the U.S. Department of Justice at least a little busy for the next few weeks.
The tape shows that Rivero brought a suitcase full of cash to Quito to pay off an Ecuador judge in exchange for favorable testimony. See this explosive press release here, which is also copied below in full.
We previously reported that in 2011 the oil giant offered a $1 billion bribe to Ecuador’s government to illegally quash the lawsuit. The judgment was based on overwhelming scientific evidence that Chevron deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest.
We now know that Chevron tried to pay $20,000 to an American journalist to spy on the plaintiffs, has conducted espionage surveillance to intimidate New York lawyer Steven Donziger, has threatened Ecuador judges with jail time, has tried to extort testimony from scientific consultants in the U.S., and has paid more than $2 million to an Ecuadorian operative to try to entrap Ecuadorian judges in a bribery scandal.
Of course, that’s on top of Chevron’s admission that it dumped 16 billion gallons of benzene-laden “water of formation” into the rivers and streams of the Amazon and then lied about the resulting financial risk to its shareholders, which prompted calls for an SEC investigation, which prompted a shareholder revolt last year against CEO John Watson which almost cost him his job.
These guys never seem to learn. Rivero and a Chevron operative named Sam Anson were outed earlier this year by an Ecuadorian newspaper for trying to intimidate and buy off judges in Ecuador. This is happening as the oil company desperately tries to beat back asset seizure actions in Canada, Brazil, and Argentina related to its refusal to pay the Ecuador judgment.
Please delight in reading about the details of this latest Chevron bribery scandal courtesy of Rivero, a Miami-based former prosecutor who, no doubt, has been paid millions by Chevron to risk his career for the company.
Andres, please let us know as soon as possible whether you think this assignment was worth it.
Here is the link to the press release on CSR Wire. A longer version follows below:
Chevron Offered Suitcase Full of Cash to Ecuador Judge In Exchange for Testimony, Documents Reveal
PRESS RELEASE/Fenton Communications
Contact: Bill Hamilton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: May 1, 2013
New York, New York -- An American lawyer working for Chevron brought a suitcase full of cash to a meeting with a former Ecuador judge in an apparent attempt to bribe him for favorable testimony to help the oil giant evade its $19 billion Ecuador judgment, an explosive new court filing from the oil company reveals.
A Chevron investigator taped the meeting between Chevron lawyer Andres Rivero and Ecuador Judge Alberto Guerra, which took place in Ecuador’s capital of Quito in July of 2012. Chevron recently filed a transcript of the meeting in U.S. federal court as part of the company’s discovery obligations in a related “fraud” case brought by Chevron against the Ecuadorians.
Rivero, a former federal prosecutor, says on tape that he brought to the meeting $20,000 cash in “money that's in the suitcase” to pay Guerra for allegations that the Ecuador plaintiffs were involved in the writing of the judgment in the case. When asked by Rivero if $20,000 was enough, Guerra replied “Couldn’t we add a couple of zeroes to that?”
In an earlier court filing, Chevron admitted it ended up paying Guerra $38,000 for the information plus over $300,000 more for “protection” and “expenses” including relocation to the U.S. – or about ten times the annual salary of a judge in Ecuador and well in excess of Guerra’s $500 per month in expenses he admits to incurring.
Lawyers for the Ecuadorians called the cash offering further proof that Chevron was paying bribes in Ecuador for false testimony and said Chevron should be investigated for violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and federal witness tampering statutes. The U.S. Department of Justice previously fined Chevron after finding it violated the FCPA in Iraq.
“We’ve always known that Chevron can only bully and bribe its way to favorable testimony but now we have even more undisputed evidence of this malfeasance,” added Pablo Fajardo, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Ecuador. “Ethical corporations don’t send their people to meetings carrying suitcases stuffed with cash.”
Worse still for Chevron, Guerra admitted in the transcript that he recently had been made sick by drinking water from a well “polluted with oil” from areas of Ecuador’s Amazon that Chevron has refused to properly remediate.
Chevron’s transcript also corroborates a recent affidavit from Ecuador Judge Nicolas Zambrano, who authored the judgment against Chevron. Judge Zambrano declared under oath that Chevron had used Guerra as a conduit to offer him a $1 million bribe to lie and testify against the rainforest communities.
In the transcript, a person identified as Chevron “Investigator #5” told Guerra “you get yours when a deal is reached with Zambrano”. The operative also admitted he offered to fly Zambrano out of the country to meet “a very high ranking person from Chevron” if he could come up with sufficiently damaging information to help undermine the judgment.
“Guerra is Chevron’s kind of witness,” said Craig Smyser of Houston, attorney for the Ecuadorians in the New York case. “The kind whose only question to the company is: how much will you pay me?”
“Chevron’s lies are coming back to haunt them,” said Fajardo. “This rogue company thinks it can bribe anyone in Ecuador to avoid paying for cleaning up our land but we will hold them accountable for the mess they left behind.”
Rivero himself has been under fire for serving as Chevron’s point person in a far-reaching espionage campaign organized by the private investigations service Kroll and exposed by a Quito-based newspaper, El Telegrafo. The El Telegrafo articles found that Chevron is using Rivero, a Kroll operative named Sam Anson, and an investigator named Yohi Ackerman "as secret agents" in Ecuador to "intimidate" former judges, government officials, and technical workers who were either involved in the eight-year Ecuador trial or are in a position to lie about the extent of oil contamination in the Amazon region.
Rivero was deposed about these and other issues last week under federal court order, but it is unclear if Chevron will make the transcript available or if the company will move to seal it from public scrutiny.
These latest revelations are not the first evidence of Chevron’s bribery attempts in Ecuador. Information surfaced in late 2011 in The Huffington Post that Chevron offered $1 billion to an Ecuadorian government official in exchange for an agreement that the environmental case would be quashed before a final judgment was reached. Sam Anson, featured in the El Telegrafo expose, was previously caught offering a $20,000 bribe to an American journalist to spy on lawyers for the plaintiffs, according to a report in The Atlantic.
“Chevron’s lies are coming back to haunt them,” claimed Javier Piaguaje, one of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs who is contesting Chevron’s fraud claims in Federal Court in New York. “This rogue company thinks it can bribe anyone in Ecuador to avoid paying for cleaning up our ancestral lands.”
“No matter how Chevron tries to spin this, law-abiding corporations simply don’t send their lawyers to meet with former judges carrying suitcases full of cash,” added Graham Erion, a US-trained corporate attorney who advises the rainforest communities in Ecuador on shareholder issues. “This transcript is just another embarrassing revelation for Chevron’s management team that is already facing the threat of strategic asset seizures in Brazil, Argentina and Canada.
“Chevron’s current management team is dragging the company’s brand through Ecuador’s oil-soaked mud, and lying about it to shareholders,” he added.
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