| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Aug 31 Chevron Corp (CVX.N) has
accused the judge in a $27 billion environmental damage case in
Ecuador of misconduct and being involved in a bribery scheme
that Chevron said appears to involve Ecuador's government.
The U.S. oil company said in a statement on Monday that it
would seek disqualification of Judge Juan Nunez after providing
Ecuadorean and U.S. authorities with secretly recorded video of
Nunez talking of ruling against Chevron later this year.
Chevron said the video, posted at its TexacoEcuador YouTube
channel here shows a
man at another meeting identifying himself as a representative
of Ecuador's ruling party discussing a $3 million bribe for
contracts, of which Nunez would get a third.
Chevron said two meetings with Nunez and two meetings with
purported party representative Patricio Garcia were recorded by
both Diego Borja, a local logistics contractor who has worked
for Chevron, and American Wayne Hansen, who has no relationship
with the company.
"No judge who has participated in meetings of the type
shown on these tapes could possibly deliver a legitimate
decision," Chevron Executive Vice President Charles James said
in the company's statement.
The Ecuadorean government did not respond to requests for
Chevron said the four meetings were recorded without its
knowledge, through small cameras in a watch owned by Borja and
a pen held by Hansen. Borja only brought the bribery scheme to
the company's attention in June, Chevron said in the
Chevron said Borja and Hansen had been "pursuing business
opportunities" in Ecuador before the potential for remediation
work was brought to their attention and the meeting with Garcia
was arranged to discuss it.
Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson said the two men had not
explained why they recorded the meetings, and he said the bribe
scheme had been "put on the table" prior to the meeting with
The video of the two meetings with Nunez, who appears to be
the same Nunez who has appeared on television news coverage,
showed the judge discussing the long-running case, which had
been expected to conclude later this year.
The plaintiffs have said Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001,
damaged their health by dumping billions of gallons of polluted
water in the jungle around where they live for more than two
decades before the company left Ecuador in the early 1990s.
Karen Hinton, a Washington D.C.-based spokeswoman for the
Amazon Defense Coalition, which supports the plaintiffs, said
the video showed Nunez had resisted the attempted bribe scheme
put to him by the former Chevron contractor.
"An appropriate investigation will determine whether the
allegations are true or if they are the product of a dirty
tricks campaign designed and financed by the company," Hinton
said in a statement released to the media.
Chevron said Borja and Hansen first met with Nunez in May
after an initial meeting at Alianza Pais's Quito offices with
Garcia, who said he was a representative of the party.
Garcia then arranged for Borja and Hansen to fly to Lago
Agrio, where the case is being heard, to see Nunez, and the two
men met Nunez again at a Quito hotel in June, Chevron said.
Chevron said neither man was paid, though the San Ramon,
California-based company said it had assisted Borja with
relocation expenses and other support because he and the
company feared for his safety and that of his family.
Chevron said it would not provide details about Borja's
relocation for security reasons.
"Chevron has alerted authorities both in Ecuador and in the
United States, and both governments should investigate this
evidence in a serious and expeditious manner," the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform said in a statement.
Chevron, which says it has faced a "trial lawyer"-led
campaign to force it to settle in the case, has long complained
of political interference in the Ecuador case.
The plaintiffs, represented by U.S.-based lawyer Steven
Donziger, responded by pointing out that Texaco had pushed to
move the trial to Ecuador from the United States in 2002.
An expert appointed by the Ecuadorean court said last
November that Chevron should pay $27 billion, including more
than $8 billion in unjust enrichment, which was far above the
previous damages estimate of up to $16 billion.
Chevron has said it would fight what it expects to be an
adverse judgment, possibly in the United States, if necessary.
"While Chevron probably has no hope of a fair hearing in
the Ecuadorean legal system, it should have no trouble in an
impartial setting, and thus we see no plausible scenario under
which the plaintiffs would collect anything close to $27
billion," Raymond James analysts said in a note to investors.
Chevron shares closed 1 percent lower at $69.94 on Monday,
responding to a drop in crude oil prices.
(Reporting by Braden Reddall in San Francisco and Jose
Llangari in Quito)