5 November 2015 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
New York, NY – Lawyers representing U.S. attorney Steven Donziger today filed sworn testimony showing Chevron's star witness Alberto Guerra admitted accepting large cash payments from the company and lying on the stand to protect the oil giant from paying a $9.5 billion environmental judgment owed to villagers in Ecuador's rainforest.
"This is an extraordinary case, and these are extraordinary developments," said the filing, made by Deepak Gupta, Donziger's lead attorney. "They not only bear on the legal issues in this appeal, they also exonerate Steven Donziger of the allegations of wrongdoing that Chevron has levied against him."
The filing, available here, asserts that "new developments cast grave doubt on the truth of [Chevron's] fraud allegations and confirm Chevron's extensive pollution of the rainforest.
"These developments heighten the likelihood of inconsistent results and illustrate why this proceeding is both unnecessary and in contravention of basic norms of international comity," said the motion, made to a three-judge panel hearing an appeal of Chevron's civil racketeering case filed in the United States against Donziger, Ecuadorian lawyer Pablo Fajardo, and the 47 named plaintiffs who first pressed their class-action environmental claims against Chevron in 1993.
The Ecuadorian villagers, who suffer from high cancer rates and are often forced to consume contaminated water in areas where Chevron operated in Ecuador, won a stunning judgment against the American company in 2011 that has since been affirmed unanimously by Ecuador's Supreme Court. (Here is a summary of the overwhelming evidence against Chevron in Ecuador.)
The filing by Gupta, made to the United States Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit, makes the following points:
- Guerra admitted in a separate arbitral proceeding between Chevron and Ecuador's government that he accepted roughly $2 million in cash and benefits from Chevron to testify for the company and that he only had $146 in his bank account when he struck his deal to get paid.
- Guerra admitted in the arbitration that he lied on the witness stand in New York during the racketeering case about key elements of Chevron's "bribe" allegation, which Donziger has categorically rejected.
- Guerra admitted during the arbitration that the key corroborating evidence relied on by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to credit his testimony – shipping records from an Ecuadorian airline – had nothing to do with the Chevron pollution case, contrary to his testimony in Kaplan's court.
- Guerra also admitted that he repeatedly "exaggerated" his knowledge of the case to obtain more money from Chevron and that he knew Chevron would not pay unless he came up with a story to implicate the trial judge in a bribery scheme.
- Guerra also conceded in his arbitral testimony that there is no credible evidence corroborating his allegation that the lawyers for the Ecuadorians ghostwrote the trial court judgment.
Chevron brought its RICO case in the U.S. the same month that an Ecuador trial court found the company guilty of deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into rivers and streams in Ecuador relied on by thousands of local inhabitants for their drinking water. Virtually all of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs rejected the jurisdiction of U.S. judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who refused to seat a jury and failed to disclose he had investments in Chevron when he was presiding over the case.
Kaplan also refused to hear the scientific evidence of Chevron's environmental contamination relied on by the courts in Ecuador to find the company liable, prompting Donziger to call the proceeding a "show trial". "Chevron made a mockery of justice in Kaplan's courtroom, and they did it with the active cooperation of Kaplan himself," Donziger said at the time. (For background on the numerous problems with the RICO case, see here.)
In ruling in favor of Chevron in the racketeering case, Kaplan had credited Guerra's testimony that the plaintiffs bribed the trial judge based on information now proven to be false and that Guerra admits he lied about, according to the latest filing.
Luis Yanza, a longtime leader of the affected communities in Ecuador, blasted the oil company for its abusive litigation tactics and its refusal to comply with the court order that it clean up its contamination. Chevron has used at least 60 law firms and 2,000 lawyers to try to beat back the villagers, who are currently enforcing the Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron's assets in Canada and Brazil.
"Let us be clear: Chevron's attacks against Steven Donziger, Pablo Fajardo and other advocates of the very communities it poisoned in Ecuador must cease immediately," said Yanza, who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. "We consider an attack against any one of our advocates to be an attack against all, including the thousands of innocent people suffering death and grave harm because of Chevron's reckless misconduct and criminal fraud in Ecuador."
Kaplan already was reversed once in the racketeering case when he took the unprecedented stop of trying – from his Manhattan courtroom – to block enforcement of the Ecuador judgment in any country in the world.
Kaplan's racketeering decision in favor of Chevron has little practical effect, as the villagers are enforcing their judgment in countries where Kaplan has no jurisdiction, said Yanza. The Canada Supreme Court recently ruled in a unanimous opinion that the villagers could attempt to seize Chevron's assets in that country, which are estimated to have $15 billion in value.
After the transcripts of Guerra's arbitral testimony first became available publicly last week, Donziger issued the following statement:
"The disclosure of Guerra's corrupt witness testimony is just the latest of many examples of how Chevron has engaged in gross misconduct to sabotage legal proceedings in Ecuador and the United States to evade accountability for the deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste. Chevron has now been caught yet again in presenting false evidence designed to delay its court-mandated environmental clean-up in Ecuador of oil contamination that has decimated indigenous groups and caused a humanitarian catastrophe. The latest testimony from Guerra demonstrates once and for all that Chevron's so-called racketeering case has fallen apart. Guerra was the linchpin of Chevron's RICO case and he now stands as an admitted liar and shocking symbol of how Chevron's management has lost its way on the Ecuador issue.
Guerra's false testimony is one of many documented frauds Chevron has committed in Ecuador and elsewhere. These include the use of a sampling and analysis plan designed to hide contamination from the court, the secret videotaping of a sitting judge to try to entrap him in a fake bribery scheme, and attempts by Chevron operatives to bribe the trial judge who authored the opinion against the company. Chevron and its lawyers also paid $2 million to Guerra for his testimony in violation of federal law and ethical rules. The company enlisted the U.S. government under false pretenses to provide Guerra and his family with political asylum. Two Chevron lawyers – Randy Mastro and Avi Weitzman – coached Guerra for 53 consecutive days as part of a desperate effort to fictionalize a story and frame the company's adversaries with false evidence.
Given the latest critical developments relating to Guerra's testimony, we reiterate our call to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss Judge Kaplan's "findings" of fact and legal rulings which are based largely on demonstrably false or distorted evidence already rejected unanimously by two different appellate courts in Chevron's preferred forum of Ecuador. Judge Kaplan's unprecedented decision and Chevron's illegal tactics are an affront to Ecuador's sovereignty and reflect poorly on the American federal judiciary in the eyes of the world. "