Ecuadorian judge in Chevron suit admits to being bribed

It was just last month that we learned more details of the years long lawsuit in Ecuador against Chevron, with the claims of the plaintiffs and their American, eco-warrior backers getting ripped into increasingly smaller pieces. Everyone dragged into this sordid affair on the part of those bringing the suit has been coming to regret it, as one level of mendacity after another on the part of the Ecuadorian court has been revealed. But if all of that wasn’t enough, this should really be the cherry on top of it all.

Today new allegations of deceit and wrongdoing were leveled against the plaintiffs’ lawyers bringing the already deeply troubled environmental suit against Chevron in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, which stems from Texaco’s oil drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon between 1964 and 1992. (Texaco was acquired by Chevron in 2001.)

In Manhattan federal district court this morning, Chevron filed the declaration of a former Ecuadorian judge, Alberto Guerra, who describes how he and a second former judge, Nicolás Zambrano, allegedly allowed the plaintiffs lawyers to ghostwrite their entire 188-page, $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron in exchange for a promise of $500,000 from the anticipated recovery.

The bribery charge is completely new, and the ghostwriting charge is more sweeping and better substantiated than before.

So rather than messing around with questions of whether the contracts were written properly, or who owned what when, I see we’re now going to just go with, “to hell with it. Let’s just let them write the judgement and hit the bar.” It’s a beautiful thing, really, and quite efficient. It probably saved a ton of time mucking about finding fake witnesses, forging documents or thinking up lies to keep track of.

I’m not sure what happens to a judge in Ecuador who admits to signing off on a deal like that. Probably nothing, but since he’s already fled the country to the United States after turning states’ evidence against the plaintiffs, it probably won’t matter. But he’s now open to suspicion for anything he does, including helping Chevron.

Even so, its new evidence is vulnerable to counterattack. While Guerra swears that he is receiving no compensation for his testimony, he admits that Chevron has paid him $38,000 to compensate him for the value of the physical evidence he has turned over corroborating his account, including the documents and forensic evidence stored on his computers, cellphones, thumb drives, and bank account records. Chevron also admits that it has committed to protect Guerra’s security, which has already included helping him and four family members leave Ecuador and take up residence in the United States.

He’s never going to see that half million dollars now, that’s for sure. But since he was willing to admit his part in the fraud, I suppose saving his life from assassins and covering his expenses is at least the humane thing to do. Either way… stay tuned. One day we may finally see this entire debacle put to rest once and for all, and we’ll be sure to cover it for you.

EDIT: (Jazz) Last paragraph should have read “half a million” and not “half a billion.” My apologies.