Videos Reveal Serious Judicial Misconduct and Political Influence in Ecuador Lawsuit
Chevron Calls for Investigation, Disqualification of Judge in Ecuador Case
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."
Evidence of the bribery plot was brought to Chevron's attention in June by an Ecuadorian, who was pursuing business opportunities in Ecuador with an American businessman. The Ecuadorian, Diego Borja, has performed work for Chevron as a logistics contractor. Borja also has a relative who works as a contractor to Chevron. The American, Wayne Hansen, has no relationship to Chevron. Since the time that the recordings came into Chevron's possession, the company has made extensive efforts to authenticate and preserve the information.
Borja and Hansen recorded their meetings in Ecuador without Chevron's knowledge, and neither man was paid to provide the recordings to Chevron. Because of concern for Borja's safety, Chevron has assisted him and his family with relocation expenses and other interim support.
"We are calling upon Ecuadorian authorities to conduct a full investigation of this matter — focusing not only on the conduct of Judge Núñez, but also on the very serious indications of political interference in this case," James said. "Given the highly sensitive nature of this information and our concerns about the rule of law in Ecuador, we felt compelled to put this entire matter into the public domain as a check against retaliation or further unlawful conduct as it relates to the case there. We also believe that public disclosure will encourage a deeper investigation of these matters by appropriate officials within Ecuador."
On May 11, Borja and Hansen attended a meeting at the Quito offices of Alianza PAIS where they were introduced to Patricio Garcia, who represented himself as an official with the party. Later, Garcia arranged for Borja and Hansen to fly to Lago Agrio for a May 15 meeting with Judge Núñez. During the meeting, held in the judge's chambers and recorded by Borja and Hansen, Judge Núñez stated that the government of Ecuador, not the plaintiffs, would receive the funds earmarked for remediation produced by the judgment against Chevron.
Subsequently, Borja and Hansen met with Judge Núñez at a Quito hotel on June 5. Attending the meeting was Juan Pablo Novoa, who represented himself as legal counsel for government officials.
During the meeting, Judge Núñez answered a series of questions about the case from the businessmen, who were seeking assurances the court proceedings would generate business. Novoa stated that "we have the political power" to direct remediation contracts and stressed the judge "is generating the work through the ruling." Novoa added, "The offer from the people in the government that I represent, I'm a delegate of them, so I'm accompanying the judge so that you can be serious about the case."
Judge Núñez confirmed that he would be issuing a ruling, the appeal would be a formality and the government would be handling the funds associated with remediation contracts. In a final exchange with the businessmen before the meeting ended, Judge Núñez revealed how he was planning to handle his ruling:
Núñez: "Any other questions for me as a judge?"
Hansen: "Oh no, I, I know clearly how it is, you say, Chevron is the guilty party?"
Núñez: "Yes Sir."
Hansen: "And the, the, the act (decision) is October or November of this year?"
Núñez: "Yes Sir."
Hansen: "And it's …?"
Núñez: "No later than January."
Hansen: "January 2010. And the money is twenty-seven (billion dollars)?"
Núñez: "It might be less, and it might be more."
The last recorded meeting regarding the bribes, in which Judge Núñez was not present, occurred June 22 at the Alianza PAIS office in Quito. During the meeting, Garcia confirmed the details of the bribe:
Borja: "OK. Of the three million … one million is for the judge?"
Borja: "One million for the presidency …?"
Borja: "And one million for the plaintiffs?"
Garcia: "Yes, that's right."
Borja: "But for the plaintiffs, who gets the money, man? Fajardo?"
Garcia: "No. On this matter, we're going to handle it here."
Borja: "You mean Alianza PAIS would receive the payment here?"
For the full transcripts and the complete video recordings, go to www.chevron.com/ecuador.
Chevron Corporation is one of the world's leading integrated energy companies, with subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide. The company's success is driven by the ingenuity and commitment of more than 62,000 employees who operate across the energy spectrum. Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and other energy products; manufactures and sells petrochemical products; generates power and produces geothermal energy; provides energy efficiency solutions; and develops the energy resources of the future, including biofuels and other renewables. Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif. More information about Chevron is available at www.chevron.com.
Updated: August 2009