October 28, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) A witness who was instrumental in overturning a $9.5 billion (USD) environmental fine levied against Chevron in Ecuador has admitted to lying, according to newly released transcripts.
Nearly two years ago, Alberto Guerra testified in a New York federal court that he bribed judge Nicolas Zambrano to write the multibillion dollar judgement against Chevron for oil damage in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador. Chevron, formerly Texaco, has had oil operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon since the early 1960s.
The oil giant stands accused of deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and streams, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil, and abandoning waste in hundreds of open-air pits throughout the region. Ecuador’s highest court previously found the company was liable for $9.5 billion in damages.
However, Chevron appealed the decision in an American court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and in March 2014, New York federal Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled the settlement came as the result of fraud and coercion. Kaplan stated the lawyer representing Ecuador, Steven Donzinger, was guilty of mail fraud, engaged in coercion, and paid bribes in order to win judgment against Chevron. The ruling was largely based on the testimony of Alberto Guerra two years ago.
On April 23 and 24, Guerra spoke privately to an international arbitration tribunal in Washington D.C. On Monday, 3,000 pages of transcripts from the tribunal were released to Courthouse News and VICE. According to the transcripts, for 13 days Guerra was cross-examined by a lawyer representing the Republic of Ecuador.
Guerra said that after this, Chevron approached him “to request my cooperation for me to be the liaison with Mr. Zambrano.” Guerra testified that officials with Chevron showed him a safe filled with money. The Chevron officials told Guerra, “Look, look, look what’s down there. We have $20,000 there.”
During the RICO hearings in New York, Guerra stated he made a deal with the plaintiffs and Judge Nicolas Zambrano. In exchange for Guerra ghostwriting the verdict and Zambrano issuing the $9.5 billion ruling, the two would split $500,000. However, the transcripts show that Guerra told the tribunal in D.C. there was no evidence to corroborate his claims of bribes or ghostwriting the judgement. He also stated that much of his sworn testimony was exaggerated and false.
Guerra has a history of working with Chevron. In January 2013, Chevron moved him to the United States, paid for immigration lawyers for his family, and still currently pays him a salary of $12,000 per month. Between September 2012 and November 2013, Guerra has had at least 53 meetings with Chevron representatives.
Despite his ruling against the settlement, Judge Lewis Kaplan acknowledged he did not “assume that anyone’s hands in this are clean.” Kaplan said “Guerra’s credibility is not impeccable,” but still believed Guerra’s testimony was “corroborated extensively by independent evidence.”
Morgan Crinklaw, spokesperson for Chevron, told VICE he supported Judge Kaplan when he ruled that “Guerra on many occasions has acted deceitfully and broken the law […] but that does not necessarily mean that it should be disregarded wholesale.”
The international tribunal will soon rule on the case, but it is uncertain what effect the new ruling could have on the previous judgements.
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