Amazon Defense Coalition
11 February 2013 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito, Ecuador – In a front-page expose, a leading newspaper in Ecuador has published the names of three U.S. citizens accused of carrying out a corporate espionage campaign for Chevron and its lead U.S. law firm that is designed to intimidate judges and subvert the $19 billion environmental judgment against the company.
The expose, published in a two-part series in El Telegrafo newspaper (see here and here), revealed that high-profile Miami-based lawyer Andres Rivero has been spearheading the effort along with two operatives with ties to the U.S. investigations company Kroll, Sam Anson and Yohi Ackerman. Anson, who earlier tried to pay a $20,000 bribe to an American journalist to spy on the plaintiffs in Ecuador left Kroll in 2011 to work for Chevron fulltime out of his office in Miami.
Chevron has not denied the allegations, which were published Monday and Tuesday of last week.
The uncovering of the spy scandal was blasted by Humberto Piaguaje, a leader of the indigenous Secoya group and the coordinator of the case for the dozens of rainforest communities who won the judgment against Chevron. "This is yet another example of Chevron's corruption campaign to deny the fundamental human rights of the indigenous people of Ecuador," he said.
Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the indigenous and farmer communities, said the spy ring is a violation by Chevron of criminal laws in both Ecuador and the United States and said those responsible include the company's CEO, John Watson, its General Counsel, R. Hewitt Pate, and several lawyers at the company's outside law firm at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, including Randy Mastro, Andrea Neumann, Ted Boutrous, Scott Edelman, and William Thomson.
"Chevron's behavior in Ecuador is growing ever more outrageous as the company's assets get seized and the desperation level rises at corporate headquarters," said Fajardo, citing pending seizure actions targeting more than $15 billion of Chevron assets in Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. In Argentina, according to reports, a court already has seized tens of millions of dollars from Chevron that it is holding in an escrow account.
Earlier published reports found that in 2011 Chevron floated a $1 billion bribe to Ecuador's government to quash the legal case and separately used operative Diego Borja to try to entrap a sitting judge in a videotape scandal in an effort to derail the trial. See here and here. Evidence also has surfaced that the company was paying undercover agents to spy on lawyers for the Ecuadorians in Manhattan and Ecuador. See here.
The El Telegrafo articles found that Chevron is using the three Americans "as secret agents" to "intimidate" former judges, government officials, and technical workers who were either involved in the eight-year trial that resulted in the judgment or are in a position to lie about the extent of oil contamination in the Amazon region.
The articles also revealed that Chevron signed a contract that promises to pay former Ecuadorian judge Alberto Guerra at least $326,000 for favorable testimony in the company's pending "racketeering" case against the Ecuadorians and their counsel that is currently pending in New York. Guerra presided over the Chevron trial for seven months in 2003, and was since removed from the bench for his ties to drug traffickers and an array of ethical problems. See here and here.
The articles also disclosed the following:
- That over the last year Rivero, Anson, and Ackerman have traveled in and out of Ecuador as often as three times per month.
- That the three agents have been intensively focused on trying to bribe former Judge Nicolas Zambrano, who issued the 188-page trial court judgment that found Chevron liable for the deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste in Ecuador's Amazon region.
- Rivero, acting on behalf of Chevron, has made multiple contacts with Zambrano to offer him a lucrative benefits package to lie on behalf of the company, according to evidence cited by El Telegrafo. Rivero's role in the spy ring includes "establishing links and business with false witnesses" and finalizing their agreements with Chevron, according to the article.
- Documents and audiotapes indicate Rivero has called Zambrano on several occasions to intimidate him. In one conversation, Rivero said "you need to talk to me" and "I can be at your home in five minutes. I know that you have company at your house now." Zambrano lives in the small town of Manta, on Ecuador's Pacific coast.
- Among the investigative firms used by Chevron is the shadowy IRI, run by the American Douglas Beard, a former CIA agent. Beard has been the subject of allegations in the U.S. in a separate case that he paid witnesses for testimony and lied about it to various courts on behalf of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.
(The key lawyers at Gibson Dunn involved in the Chevron case often collaborate with IRI to "blow up" human rights litigation against American corporations for exorbitant fees, said Aaron Marr Page, a U.S. attorney representing the Ecuadorians an a specialist in human rights litigation.)
- Akerman Posso, a lawyer who has dual citizenship in Colombia and the U.S., is in charge of contacting reporters in Ecuador and Latin America to manipulate articles in Chevron's favor and to "dirty" the Ecuador sentence, according to the article.
Chevron representatives – including former General Counsel Charles James – have famously said the company would fight the case until "hell freezes over" and then "skate it out on the ice."
Fajardo said that kind of win-at-all-costs mentality on the part of the company has led to a host of legal violations, including complaints by Chevron shareholders to the SEC that the management is lying about the Ecuador risk to artificially inflate the company's stock price. See here and here.
"The evidence shows that 'skating it out on the ice' means Chevron will do anything, even break the law, to avoid being held accountable for making people thousands of people in Ecuador sick and destroying the rainforest environment," he said.