Chevron today released damning evidence of a bribery scheme to rig the court proceedings against the company in Ecuador, ostensibly for environmental damage by its predecessor — Texaco — but in reality just because Chevron is a successful U.S.-based energy company that makes a convenient target to U.S. trial lawyers and environmental activists.

What’s really surprising here is not the corruption — the rule of law has been horribly debased in Ecuador under the regime of Rafael Correa — but the blatant assumptions on display: Of course you can buy a multibillion-dollar verdict against Chevron.

Chevron has full video and transcripts documenting the bribery scheme at its website: http://www.chevron.com/ecuador/. And a Chevron news release summarizes, “Videos Reveal Serious Judicial Misconduct and Political Influence in Ecuador Lawsuit“:

SAN RAMON, Calif.– SAN RAMON, Calif., Aug. 31, 2009 – Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX) today provided authorities in Ecuador and the U.S. with video recordings that reveal a $3 million bribery scheme implicating the judge presiding over the environmental lawsuit currently pending against the company and individuals who identify themselves as representatives of the Ecuadorian government and its ruling party.

In the videos, the judge confirms that he will rule against Chevron and that appeals by the energy company will be denied – even though the trial is ongoing and evidence is still being received. A purported party official also states that lawyers from the executive branch have been sent to assist the judge in writing the decision.

The recorded meetings also show an individual who claims to be a representative of Ecuador`s ruling political party, Alianza PAIS, seeking $3 million in bribes in return for handing out environmental remediation contracts to two businessmen after the verdict is handed down. Of that sum, he said $1 million would go to Judge Juan Núñez, $1 million would go to “the presidency” and $1 million to the
plaintiffs.

The video-taped meetings occurred in May and June of 2009. Two of the meetings took place at the Quito offices of Alianza PAIS, one meeting took place in the judge`s chambers in Lago Agrio, and a second meeting involving the judge took place in a Quito hotel.

After referring the evidence of the scheme to authorities, Chevron Executive Vice President Charles James said that company lawyers will seek the disqualification of the judge in the case and annulment of his prior rulings.

“Chevron has consistently asserted that the case has involved improper complicity between the plaintiffs and Ecuador`s executive branch and other legal irregularities,” James said. “These video recordings raise additional serious questions about corruption, executive branch interference and prejudgment of the case that demand a full investigation. No judge who has participated in meetings of the type shown on these tapes could possibly deliver a legitimate decision.”

There’s more of the news release, and the video itself is also here on YouTube.

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