Amazon Defense Coalition
2 February 2011 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul Paz y Miño: +1 510.281.9020 x302, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lago Agrio, Ecuador – With the scientific evidence against Chevron in the historic Ecuador environmental trial fully before the court, the oil giant is now resorting to threats and intimidation to try to derail a final judgment that could cost the company's shareholders tens of billions of dollars, say representatives of the plaintiffs.
In recent days, Chevron has threatened the trial judge with criminal liability for refusing to grant the oil giant's motions to dismiss the case; sued each of the 47 impoverished indigenous and farmer plaintiffs in Ecuador's rainforest in New York federal court; sought an unprecedented injunction from a U.S. federal judge to bar any American lawyer from enforcing a judgment out of Ecuador anywhere in the world; and finished its 13th day deposing one of the plaintiff's American lawyer, apparently breaking the record for the longest deposition of a lawyer on a sitting case.
The company also filed a civil RICO suit in New York yesterday, claiming the indigenous groups were trying to extort money from Chevron via the lawsuit.
"Chevron is acting out of pure desperation because we are nearing judgment," said Karen Hinton, the spokeswoman for the plaintiffs. "The company's new legal actions are designed to intimidate lawyers and funders and to provide a fake cover story for shareholders when the company is hit with an adverse judgment."
A lawyer for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs said the "irrefutable" scientific against Chevron will "triumph" over the company’s desperate attempts to choke protest.
"Irrefutable scientific truth will triumph over Chevron’s intimidation tactics and desperation," said Pablo Fajardo, the lead attorney in Ecuador in the case, which accuses Chevron of poisoning an area the size of Rhode Island by dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste.
"We will not be frightened by corporate bullying," added Fajardo. "Chevron is trying to turn the victims of its own unlawful misconduct into criminals. We will not stand for it."
Hinton said Chevron itself has engaged in a pattern of deceitful behavior in Ecuador to hide its liability from the courts and shareholders. Elements of Chevron's misconduct include:
- Misrepresenting a fraudulent remediation that resulted in more Ecuadorians being exposed to toxins, but which allowed Chevron to obtain a legal "release" from government claims;
- Using field sampling testing methods in the Ecuadorian trial that deliberately undercount toxins in the soil and water;
- Accusations by a Chevron contractor that Chevron "cooked" evidence in the case and contaminated samples switched out for clean ones before submitting them to a testing laboratory;
- Collaborating with a self-described Chevron "dirty-tricks operative" and a convicted drug felon to entrap an Ecuadorian judge in a video scandal, forcing his recusal from the court.
Hinton also said Chevron's RICO action is clearly driven by the concern about how Wall Street and its shareholders view the pending judgment.
"Chevron is cornered by the overwhelming evidence and is desperate to escape the court of its own choosing," added Hinton. "Chevron fought for ten years to move this case from the United States to Ecuador. Now that the evidence is in, Chevron is running away from these very courts."
The Ecuadorians filed their original lawsuit in the Southern District Court of New York in 1993, but Chevron successfully fought to have the case moved to Ecuador in 2002, arguing it could get a fair trial in the South American country.