Monday, 16 November 2009

You've Been Framed

Chevron Texaco's latest effort to evade a multi-billion dollar lawsuit for dumping toxic waste in Ecuador is collapsing like a house of cards. Secretly filmed videos which supposedly show Ecuadorian officials agreeing to a bribe as part of a remediation contract for the Amazon disaster suddenly have more plot holes than an episode of Lost.

The four edited videos were posted to YouTube by the oil company at the end of August, after having been recorded by American Wayne Hansen and Ecuadorian Diego Borja in an apparent display of civic duty to unearth wrongdoing. Or in an effort by Chevron to smear a trial which could cost them 20% of their market value?

The character of Wayne Hansen has been called into question in a report by a San Francisco investigator working for the Chevron Toxico campaign group. In the videos, Hansen claims to be an 'American businessman' specialising in environmental remediation, the perfect candidate to clean up Chevron’s mess.

They must have got him confused with somebody else however, because Hansen is unknown in the American environmental sector and the most notable business on his resume is drug trafficking, for which he spent 19 months in jail.

According to the Associated Press:
“Court records show that Hansen, 62, pleaded guilty to charges of facilitating the importation of marijuana in a 1987 case in Brownsville, Texas. A co-defendant said that Hansen was in charge of buying a DC-7 that prosecutors alleged would be used to fly 275,000 pounds (124,740 kilos) of marijuana to the United States from Colombia.

“Hansen, a U.S. citizen who served 19 months in federal prison in that case, also lost civil lawsuits charging him with unleashing two pitbulls on a neighbor and her golden retriever, and with tearing up the walls of another person's house with a jackhammer, according to California county court records and the plaintiffs.”

Chevron initially said their only connection with the second film maker, Borja, was through his previous work as a contractor for Chevron, and that they knew nothing of the meetings until after the tapes had been handed to them.

However, according to campaigners, Tim Cullen, a lawyer working for Chevron, recently admitted to the company meeting with Borja in San Francisco just days before the final 'incriminating' tape was filmed in Ecuador. It's only in this fourth and final recording that actual corrupt practices are discussed - with a supposed government official who is actually a car salesman from Quito.

The first tapes show little more than the judge presiding over the suit, Juan Nuñez, agreeing that a verdict will be reached, hardly a smoking gun to undermine a judicial system that Chevron years previously vaunted in a successful effort to shift the case away from an American court.

Questions about Chevron Role in Ecuador Bribery Scandal – Amazon Defense Coalition (pdf)

Cullen also admitted to Chevron assisting Borja in seeking employment in the US and paying the former contractor's legal fees, as well as other payments and expenses for transportation and housing.

Stephen Donziger, an American lawyer advising the 30,000 plaintiffs said: "Each additional communication by Chevron casts further doubt on the company's own credibility and suggests Chevron's own lawyers in both Quito and the U.S. played a role in orchestrating possible criminal misconduct to evade a judgment at trial.

"All of Chevron's lawyers and outside counsel at the June 18th meeting with Borja need to be questioned under oath to determine if an act of corruption was planned so an American company could evade a legal obligation to clean up pollution it caused in the rainforest – pollution that is killing people and destroying indigenous groups."

Chevron could be in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which allows for the prosecution of those who bribe officials outside the USA. This law is at the centre of allegations made against BAe Systems that are being investigated by the US Department of Justice.

Donziger also called for US authorities to force Chevron into cooperating with Ecuadorian authorities. The company have so far refused to hand over forensic analysis of the tapes they themselves commissioned, which would help identify those who edited the tapes, nor have they explained how Borja ended up in an office with Chevron lawyers in San Francisco. Completely unrelated is the revelation that Borja works from the same Quito office block as Chevron’s lawyers in Ecuador.

The lawsuit being brought against the multinational could cost them as much as $27 billion should the judge rule against them in a decision expected early next year. The oil giant have already said they will not pay up, prompting campaigners to declare the likelihood of the largest forced asset seizures in history. That Chevron have so publicly stated their intention to shirk any kind of monetary responsibility makes this whole video saga depressingly embarrassing.

You fucked up Chevron, now grow a pair and pay up.


  1. I agree! I mean I know it's all about dollars and cents for Chevron but it strikes me as beyond appalling that they could turn their backs on the massive environmental and humanitarian damage that resulted because of their negligence. You would think that at some point basic humanity would kick in and compel them to own up to what's happened. Check out this blog that a friend just started to track what's going on:

  2. Check out to find out how you can do something about this. Thanks.