Amazon Defense Coalition
23 January 2012 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bill Hamilton at (202) 641-0350 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New York, NY – Chevron has paid a whopping $2.2 million to a longtime company contractor who repeatedly threatened to expose the company's attempts to mislead the court and corrupt the landmark environmental trial in Ecuador, according to new court documents. The documents are available here.
The stunning information could further damage the legal prospects of the oil giant, which earlier this month found itself on the losing end of an appellate court decision in Ecuador affirming an $18 billion liability for causing what experts believe could be the world's worst oil contamination. See here and here.
Chevron has been repeatedly sanctioned in Ecuador for trying to sabotage the trial, intimidate judges into ruling in favor of the company, and using a secret lab to hide its dirty soil samples from the court. See here, here and here.
Chevron paid the $2.2 million – what plaintiffs call "hush money" – to Diego Borja, a self-described Chevron "dirty tricks" operative who lifted soil and water samples during dozens of critical court-supervised inspections during the eight-year trial from 2003 to 2011.
Aside from his trial duties, Borja in 2009 orchestrated a video scheme to entrap an Ecuador judge in a fake bribery scandal, which backfired against the company; he later was recorded on a phone call describing evidence that Chevron cooked laboratory results to hide its contamination from the court. See here and here.
Chevron paid for Borja and his family to move from Ecuador to the United States in 2009, where he reportedly lives in an undisclosed location in the Houston area while remaining on Chevron's payroll while he does no work. Borja's wife, Sara Portilla, was also given a job by the company the nature of which remains undisclosed, according to the evidence.
Chevron disclosed during discovery in a related litigation in New York that it had paid the funds to Borja as of September of 2011, the point when a trial the oil giant initiated to block enforcement of the $18 billion Ecuador judgment was stayed by a federal appellate court.
A separate discovery proceeding against Chevron underway in federal court in San Francisco could lead to the disclosure of additional documents implicating the oil giant in an attempt to undermine the court proceedings and cover up Borja's "dirty tricks" activities, said Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians.
"The exorbitant amounts of money paid by Chevron to a low-level Ecuadorian worker is clearly hush money designed to buy silence from a man who can expose the company's corruption," said Hinton, noting that Chevron has spent huge legal fees on three different law firms in an attempt to prevent further disclosure of Borja's documents.
The payments to Borja and his wife include regular monthly fees of $5,000 to $10,000; fund for housing and the purchase of furniture, appliances, cell phones, travel, legal fees, and even the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars of income taxes.
Chevron also paid the fees of prominent California criminal defense attorney Cris Arguedes to represent Borja, who faces potential criminal liability for his trial-related activities in Ecuador. Arguedes is expected to represent Borja as a likely witness in various legal fora as the case proceeds.
In the San Francisco discovery proceeding, Chevron has used three large corporate law firms – including Jones Day and Boies Schiller – to fight further disclosure of Borja's documents. These include the contents of an IPhone that Borja says could destroy Chevron's legal defense in the Ecuador case. A ruling on that discovery request, currently before Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins, has been pending for months.
Another set of documents, ordered released by a federal court in Colorado, disclosed that Chevron used a secret “Judicial Inspection Playbook” to execute a plan to hide contamination from the Ecuador court. See here and here.
Details about Chevron’s relationship and involvement with Borja and his partner Wayne Hanson, a convicted American drug trafficker, have leaked as findings from private investigations and court documents have been released over the last year. See here and here.
Some of the more salient facts that have been made public include:
- Chevron made several material misrepresentations when the videotape scandal broke in August 2009. The most blatant was the company's description of Borja as a "Good Samaritan" when in fact he was a paid “dirty tricks” operative working under the direction of Chevron lawyers.
- Courthouse News reported that it had an email from Hansen confirming Chevron had "cut a deal" with Borja for his work in trying to mount a dirty tricks campaign to undermine the trial.
- Hansen, the drug trafficker who worked with Borja, vanished from the U.S. after being subpoenaed in 2011 under federal court order. He is said to be living in Peru and has had contact with an American investigator being paid by Chevron, according to Courthouse News.
- Borja told a friend in Ecuador, Santiago Escobar, that one of his jobs for Chevron was to switch contaminated soil samples for clean ones before submitting them to the company's laboratory – a practice consistent with those described in other Chevron documents released under court order.
- Borja also told Escobar in a taped conversation that he would "immediately go to the other side" if Chevron did not pay him enough. He told Escobar that there are "things that can make the [plaintiffs] win this just like that" and he bragged that "crime does pay."
- Borja said that Chevron lied to the Ecuador court when it said the lab it used to test soil samples was independent, when in fact it was run by Borja and his wife.
- Borja confirmed that he and his wife worked on the Chevron case handling field samples for several years. He said his uncle has been employed by Chevron in Ecuador for 30 years.
- Robert Middlestadt, a managing partner of the Jones Day law firm in San Francisco and a longtime Chevron outside counsel, also has been implicated in the Borja scandal. Evidence from discovery proceedings demonstrates that Middlestadt was involved in "managing" intimate details of Borja's life after he came to the U.S., including his procurement of counsel and the payment of his cell phone bills.