Even an Anti-Chevron Lawyer Admits Seriousness of Charges

By September 2, 2009Briefly Legal, Energy, Trade

From Democracy Now! the premiere radio show of the American left, a quote from Julio Prieto, an attorney for the Amazon Defense Coalition suing Chevron, responding to Chevron’s release of videotapes documenting corruption in the Ecuadorian legal system:

This seems to me to be a last minute strategy; a smokescreen to distract public attention, and to gain time. Why are they going to gain time? Because with how bad this looks, the judge is surely going to be removed from the case, and the new judge will have to start everything from zero again, and it would take any human being a considerable amount of time to do that. Now that we are so close to hearing the sentence, I would say that this is a dirty strategy to win them one more year.

So even the trial lawyers driving the lawsuit against Chevron admit the seriousness of the latest revelations.

As for “dirty strategy,” there’s another possibility: Chevron is acting to ensure the protection of its legal rights in light of rampant corruption in Ecuador’s political and judicial system. Obtaining justice in Ecuador will be a difficult task, but releasing evidence of corruption at least maintains that possibility.

Chevron spokesman Jim Craig’s comments are clearly about the substance of justice: “We call on the Ecuadorean authorities to carry out a thorough, independent and transparent investigation into this bribery plot, not only focusing on the conduct of Judge Nunez, but also into the serious indications of political interference in the case. The results of this investigation should be made public.”

Earlier Shopfloor posts here. See also www.chevron.com/ecuador and Chevron’s blog, The Amazon Post.

UPDATE (10:55 a.m.): The American Lawyer interviews Charles James, Chevron’s executive vice president and former general counsel, about the videos documenting corruption in Ecuador. Lots of good detail, “Former Chevron GC Speaks Out on Torts Case, Ecuadorean Recordings.”

What’s the next step in this process for Chevron? I know that a letter has been sent to the prosecutor general of Ecuador. Have you received a response?

Thus far what we have seen is wild and accusatory responses from Alexis Mera, whom I understand is the moral equivalent of White House counsel in Ecuador. We’ve seen a more measured response from the prosecutor general, who says he’s conducting an investigation. We’ll proceed to follow up and file through the judicial process our motions to disqualify the judge and annul his rulings. And then we hope that this investigation by the prosecutor general is a fair, transparent and comprehensive one. Once we understand the findings of that inquiry, we’ll contemplate our next step.

What’s your response to Mera’s allegations that Chevron illegally intercepted conversations without authorization?

We were disappointed that he appears to be taking a lead role with regard to this as his name comes up fairly prominent on those tapes. We’d hope that the investigation and the [Ecuadorean] government response would be unconflicted and independent. But obviously we don’t run that country. Here in the U.S., a person mentioned in an investigation probably wouldn’t be one of the same people conducting it. The differences between the two [countries] seem to be becoming stark and more apparent by the day.

UPDATE (4:30 p.m.): Chevron has just issued a statement from James, “Chevron Welcomes News of Investigation into Judicial Misconduct.”

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