Reis Veiga Was To Defend Against Fraud Charges Filed In U.S. Court Over Toxic Dumping
9 August 2006 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito - Chevron canceled a much-anticipated press conference this week in Ecuador where embattled executive Ricardo Reis Veiga was to defend the company against fraud charges over toxic dumping filed in a U.S. federal court by Ecuador's top law enforcement agency.
After the sudden cancellation on Tuesday, Chevron was accused of "ducking its social and fiduciary responsibilities" by Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch, which is monitoring Chevron's operations in Ecuador.
"Chevron's shareholders and indeed the entire nation of Ecuador deserve an explanation of the bizarre facts that prompted a sovereign nation to accuse a major American oil company of fraud," she said.
Chevron faces a widening circle of criminal and civil probes over the dumping of 18 billion gallons of toxic waste directly into the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, where the company operated an oil concession from 1964 to 1990. Last month, Ecuador's Justice Department accused Chevron in U.S. federal court in New York of lying to secure a release after a flawed $40 million remediation overseen by Reis Veiga in the mid 1990s.
Reis Veiga, Chevron's Vice President and General Counsel for Latin America, announced last week that he would explain Chevron's defense against the fraud charges in Quito at a press conference. It was to be his first trip to Ecuador since the fraud charge was filed in court in late June.
On Tuesday morning in Quito, Chevron abruptly notified journalists that Reis Veiga would not appear. No explanation was offered.
Chevron is the target of a separate criminal probe on the fraud charges in Ecuador by the country's Fiscal, or national prosecutor. Reis Veiga and Chevron's legal agent in Ecuador, Rodrigo Perez Pallares, signed off on the remediation.
If Ecuador prevails in the fraud charge, Chevron could face a $6 billion clean-up tab - the estimated cost of a comprehensive remediation -- in addition to liability claimed by 30,000 citizens in the area for oil-related damages. The company is also the subject of an SEC investigation in the U.S. for hiding the potential Ecuador liability from shareholders.
Chevron is the defendant in a civil suit in Ecuador that charges the dumping and the abandonment of roughly 1,000 toxic waste pits threaten five indigenous groups with extinction and have produced cancers and other oil-related health problems. Chevron claims the contamination caused no harm and that the release from the government protects it from further liability.
In making the fraud charge, Ecuador relied on evidence from the civil trial that shows levels of toxins at least hundreds of times higher than E.P.A. and Ecuadorian norms at numerous well sites which Chevron claimed to have remediated.