Chevron Says The Judge In Its $27 Billion Ecuador Lawsuit Was Bribed

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Chevron’s 16-year-old Ecuadorian legal saga continues.

The company is being sued for $27 billion from environmental damage Texaco caused to the Amazon rain forest in the 1970s and 80s (Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001). Chevron argues it already paid to clean up the mess, and isn’t responsible for more recent degradation.

But now, the Ecuadorian judge presiding over the case has stepped down after the oil company produced videos they say show him expressing support for the plaintiffs before upcoming ruling, widely expected to be against Chevron. From the AP:

QUITO, Ecuador — The Ecuadorean judge presiding over a $27 billion environmental lawsuit against Chevron recused himself Friday amid an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing.

Earlier this week, Chevron released three video recordings in which provincial Judge Juan Evangelista Nunez allegedly told two businessmen — an Ecuadorean with ties to Chevron, Diego Borja, and an American businessman, Wayne Hansen — that he had already made up his mind to rule against the company.

Nunez denies the allegations, saying the tape was “edited and manipulated,” but told The Associated Press that he is stepping down to facilitate the government’s investigation. Read the whole thing here.

Chevron also says the judge is implicated in a $3 million bribery scheme. If both charges are true, the oil company gains ammunition for its argument that the Ecuadorian judicial system isn’t objective, and a ruling shouldn’t be enforced by the U.S.

But there are questions about what the tapes actually prove, as noted in this Los Angeles Times editorial and this statement from the plaintiffs’ group:

On Tuesday, representatives of the Amazon communities said the so-called bribery scandal – which Chevron claimed implicated the judge overseeing the trial – had all the telltale signs of a Nixon-style “dirty tricks” operation orchestrated by persons working on behalf of the oil giant. It now turns out much of what Chevron claims is not supported by the evidence or has been mischaracterized by the company, said Steven Donziger, an American legal advisor to the indigenous communities of Ecuador.

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