Chevron Operative Accused of Defying Court Order
Amazon Defense Coalition
18 January 2011 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
San Francisco, CA – Chevron is attempting to block or delay the sworn deposition testimony of the company's Ecuadorian "dirty tricks" operative Diego Borja, the spokesperson for the Ecuadorians suing Chevron for oil contamination in the Amazonian rainforest, charged today.
Meanwhile, the Republic of Ecuador is seeking to compel Borja to comply with a previous court order requiring him to turn over documents related to his employment on Chevron's legal team in Ecuador from 2004 to 2009. Borja had worked for Chevron's legal team as part of a landmark environmental trial where the company is facing a potential $113 billion legal liability in Ecuadorian court over the oil-related contamination of the rainforest.
Separately, lawyers for the 30,000 impoverished plaintiffs in the environmental case against Chevron in Ecuador are attempting to depose Borja, who has said on tape that he has evidence of Chevron's misconduct that would allow the plaintiffs to win the trial immediately.
The government of Ecuador's latest legal papers, filed earlier this month in the Northern District Court of California in San Francisco, said Borja was in "absolute disregard" of court orders requiring the production of documents by Dec. 15, or two weeks after Borja's motion to quash the subpoena was denied. The government also is arguing that Borja has waived all privileges by failing to comply with the court-ordered production schedule.
The disregard of the court orders and Chevron's admitted financial support of Borja raise questions about whether the company is assisting Borja's efforts to evade the authority of a U.S. Federal Court, said Karen Hinton, the spokesperson for the indigenous and farmer communities suing the oil giant in Ecuador.
"It is becoming increasingly obvious that Chevron is, at best, encouraging Borja's obstructionism, and at worst, orchestrating a campaign to prevent facts known to Borja from emerging that relate to the company's misconduct in Ecuador," said Hinton.
Borja and his wife Sara Portilla, – who have no known employment and have been financially supported by Chevron since 2009 – have apparently vacated their home in California while under subpoena to produce documents and testify about their work on behalf of Chevron in the Ecuador case. Separately, Borja's collaborator Wayne Hansen has vacated his home in Bakersfield, California and cannot be found.
The Ecuadorian plaintiffs have also subpoenaed Borja and Portilla and face many of the same obstructionist tactics on the part of his counsel, said Hinton. Borja is represented by Chris Arguedes of Arguedes, Cassman, & Headley, LLP, a high-profile and respected criminal defense firm in the Bay Area whose fees are being paid for by the company.
The plaintiff's legal papers quote Borja on taped conversations as saying that he has "conclusive evidence" that would allow the plaintiffs to "win this just like that" (snapping his fingers); that Chevron "cooked evidence" in the trial; that he [Borja] set up several "dummy corporations" for Chevron in Ecuador to hide the company's role; and testimony from a friend of Borja that he stated that he swapped dirty soil samples for "clean" samples before submitting them to a supposedly "independent" lab.
Portilla, Borja's wife, also worked for Chevron in the Ecuador trial as part of the evidence-handling team and in setting up dummy corporations, according to Borja's taped conversations.
"Borja has admitted to engaging in what he has described as a dirty tricks operation, involving...soil samples, to support Chevron's litigation strategy," reads the plaintiffs' brief against Borja.
"In short, Chevron has gone to extraordinary lengths and employed the full force of its vast resources to frustrate the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' efforts to obtain a fair trial," the brief continues.
In 2009, when Borja became a subject of controversy in Ecuador connected to his purported inappropriate and illegal actions taken as part of Chevron's legal defense effort, the company moved Borja out of Ecuador and into a luxury home on a golf course only a few miles from the oil giant's global headquarters in San Ramon, CA. He was put on a monthly salary and provided a large SUV, even while his Chevron-paid attorneys prevented all efforts by third parties to interview him about actions he took on behalf of the company.
Chevron is accused in the lawsuit of deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic "produced water" into the rainforest and abandoning more than 900 open-air toxic waste pits which continue contaminating soils, groundwater, and waterways. Cancer rates in the area have skyrocketed and several indigenous groups have seen their cultures decimated, according to evidence before the court.
The parties to the 17-year litigation are submitting their final arguments to the Ecuador court.