A former Ecuadorean judge and the star witness of the Chevron case, whose testimony was largely responsible for a New York appeal court's ruling in March in favor of the oil company, admitted he lied – renewing hope for the Ecuadorean victims to finally receive compensation after 22 years of judicial process.
The Ecuadorean embassy in the U.S. released Tuesday the transcripts of 12 witnesses' hearings carried out at the World Bank, in Washington D.C., a few months after the New York ruling.
Among them, Ecuadorean ex-judge Alberto Guerra confirmed Chevron's claims that the victims' lawyer, Steven Donziger, had bribed the Ecuadorean Supreme Court to influence its sentence against the multinational.
In 2013, the Ecuadorean Supreme Court had upheld lower court rulings against Chevron but awarded only US$9 billion in damages to the victims (half what the lower courts had awarded). Then Chevron, which had spent nine years (1993-2002) avoiding a U.S. trial where it risked a heavier sentence, later appealed the Ecuadorean sentence in a New York court. In 2014, U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan concluded (based on weak evidence, but mainly Guerra's testimony) that Donziger won a provincial court ruling in Ecuador through fraudulent means.
Guerra – who was himself removed from the bench for corruption, claimed that he had “ghostwritten” the verdict the Ecuadorean court issued after a deal was struck between the defense and the court's president. However, before the international court, he admitted that parts of his testimony were exaggerated, and in other parts, that he basically “lied.”
Shortly after the Ecuadorean embassy released the document, the victims' lawyer suggested that Chevron had bribed Guerra in order to overturn the sentence from the Ecuadorean Supreme Court.
"Chevron has now been busted by the lying testimony of its main witness," said Donziger. "The latest iteration of Guerra's testimony proves clearly that Chevron paid its star witness huge sums of money to present false evidence to frame the very people in Ecuador the company poisoned."
This revelation has a good chance of putting a definite end to Chevron's efforts to dodge the fine.
As for Chevron, it ignored Guerra's confession, reasserting that the Ecuadorean court had been bribed. "These transcripts make clear that Chevron proved its case before the International Arbitration Tribunal," said Morgan Crinklaw, spokesperson for Chevron. "Witness and expert testimony confirmed that the Ecuadorean judgment against Chevron was ghostwritten by Steven Donziger and his team and that the Ecuadorean government is responsible for any further remediation."
Chevron-Texaco caused one of the world's greatest environmental disasters while drilling for oil in the Ecuadorean Amazon between 1964-1990. Almost 30,000 people, most of them Indigenous, were affected by the oil-giant’s actions.
Health experts have confirmed high rates of childhood leukemia and other cancers in the area where Chevron operated. More than 2,000 people are estimated to have died from cancer with another 10,000 currently at risk of contracting cancer because of continued exposure to carcinogenic chemicals.
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