* Diego Borja secretly taped prior judge in Ecuador case
* Chevron cited tapes to show Ecuador courts were unfair
* U.S. magistrate orders Borja to testify before March 21
By Braden Reddall and Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 17 Plaintiffs in the Ecuador
pollution case against Chevron Corp (CVX.N) will get to
question the man they call the "ringleader" of a sting
operation that is key to Chevron's efforts to avoid paying a
The deposition of Diego Borja will be the first chance for
the plaintiffs to use the same kind of U.S. legal device
extensively used by the oil company in building its extortion
case against them. [ID:nN01133100]
The Borja ruling comes just days after an Ecuadorean court
awarded plaintiffs $8.6 billion in damages -- which is set for
appeal -- and offers the Republic of Ecuador a chance to gather
evidence for a case before an international tribunal that was
brought by Chevron under a U.S.-Ecuador treaty.
A U.S. magistrate judge in San Francisco ruled late on
Wednesday that Borja, one of two men who secretly taped
Ecuadorean Judge Juan Nunez discussing the pollution case, must
surrender hundreds of documents this week and travel from Texas
to submit to three days of questioning at some point before
The decision means the Republic of Ecuador, the plaintiffs
and Chevron can question Borja under a procedure known as a
1782 action, which was used by Chevron to force plaintiffs'
lawyer Steven Donziger to turn over a trove of evidence.
Ecuador originally filed the action alone, but the
potential for appeals in the Ecuadorean case brought in the
plaintiffs, who are indigenous people backed by U.S. lawyers.
Plaintiffs' lawyer James Tyrrell, from Washington D.C. law
firm Patton Boggs, flew in to appear before Judge Edward Chen
in the federal court for the Northern District of California.
"We think we have the ringleader of the dirty tricks," said
Tyrrell, whose firm took a lead role in the plaintiffs' case
after Donziger came under fire. [ID:nN28147776]
Borja, along with American Wayne Hansen, secretly taped
videos of Nunez in 2009 before turning them over to Chevron.
The company then released them online in August 2009, and moved
Borja and his wife to a home near its headquarters in San
Ramon, California, 30 miles (50 km) east of San Francisco.
Three weeks later, Chevron claimed Ecuador had violated a
bilateral U.S.-Ecuador investment treaty because its judicial
system was not independent. Nunez recused himself, and his
successor was replaced late last year by Nicolas Zambrano, who
delivered the damages ruling on Monday. [ID:nN01254625]
The plaintiffs managed to locate a Borja acquaintance who
had records of conversations in which Borja said he had
incriminating evidence against Chevron that he could use as
leverage if the company "betrayed" him. [ID:nN06142699]
Plaintiffs also say Borja and his wife were representatives
of a firm involved in independent tests of soil samples related
to the pollution case -- originally brought against Texaco in
1993 and inherited by Chevron when it bought Texaco in 2001.
Responding to Chen's decision, Chevron said in an emailed
statement: "The government of Ecuador has done nothing to
address the misconduct of one of its judges and it seems the
government remains more interested in persecuting Mr. Borja
than addressing corruption in its courts."
Earlier on Thursday, Chevron lawyers in Ecuador requested
clarification of the $8.6 billion ruling, which found it liable
for contaminating the jungle and damaging local people's health
in the two decades before Texaco left in 1992. [ID:nN17156458]
The cases in the U.S. District Court for the Northern
District of California are In re: application of the Republic
of Ecuador, case no. 10-mc-80225, and In re: application of
Daniel Carlos Lusitand Yaiguaje, et al., case no. 10-mc-80324.
(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Steve Orlofsky)