The $9 billion verdict against Chevron in Ecuador represents a travesty of justice.
BY GUSTAVO CORONEL
The decision in a trial against Chevron Texaco in a Lago Agrio, Ecuador court was reached a few days ago, after a lengthy legal process. In spite of numerous irregularities and criminal actions committed by the plaintiffs the U.S. petroleum company was condemned to pay some $8.7 billion in environmental damages. The original request estimated by the court-designated expert had been for $27 billion, later increased to over $110 billion.
This decision represents a travesty of justice, considering that:
- The original judge, Juan Nunez, had to leave the trial because he was accused
by Chevron Texaco of receiving bribes to decide in favor of the plaintiffs. The defendants produced recordings of conversations and photos of the meetings between the judge and representatives of the plaintiffs in order to prove the criminal action;
- The expert named by the court to produce the technical and environmental analysis of the case did not have the required credentials for this task. Moreover, he was in collusion with the plaintiffs. His report was written partially or wholly by STRATUS, a consultant firm based in Denver, Colorado paid by the plaintiffs. This alone should have been enough reason to invalidate the report and nullify the trial;
- The findings and assertions of the expert’s report were often in error and results adulterated. It was shown that several other testifying experts, theoretically neutral, were also in collusion with the plaintiffs;
- The chief lawyer for the plaintiffs, Steven Donziger, resorted to illegal threats and arm-twisting tactics, in order to pressure the judge and other Ecuadorian authorities, including government officials, to decide in their favor. Many of these illegal tactics have been recorded in film and are in the hands of U.S. courts;
- The original financial supporter of Mr. Donziger, a Philadelphia lawyer, split away from the case some months ago, when he realized that Mr. Donziger had been using illegal, unprofessional tactics;
- The government of Ecuador, at the highest level (President Rafael Correa) sided publicly with the plaintiffs for many months, threatening the judge with retaliation if he did not decide against the oil company;
- A documentary film called CRUDE has shown how the technical and legal team of the plaintiffs met to discuss illegal actions, including the writing of the report by the so-called “impartial” expert;
The amount of evidence incriminating Donziger and his team of “experts” and public relation specialists is so significant that Chevron Texaco is using it to counter-sue the plaintiffs in U.S. courts, under the provisions of the RICO law. As things stand today, Chevron Texaco has refused to accept the validity of the Ecuadorian decision and is prepared to fight the case on appeal.
Rarely had we seen such a blatant case of miscarriage of justice as the one that took place in the Ecuador trial against Chevron Texaco. It is sad to see how this absurd decision has not been the object of widespread rejection by public opinion, probably due to the fact that the defendant is an oil company, a big and powerful corporation and, as such, less than popular with the world media. In contrast, the plaintiffs, although acting in a criminal fashion, have been perceived as victims and underdogs.
Gustavo Coronel, a 28-year oil industry veteran, was a member of the first board of directors of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and is the author of several books.
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