Former Ecuador judge on Chevron case says plaintiffs bribed court

Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:59pm EST
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By Nate Raymond and Braden Reddall

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A former Ecuadorean judge has claimed that after stepping down from the bench, he illegally ghostwrote a judgment in which Chevron was ordered to pay $18.2 billion (11.5 billion pounds) for polluting the rain forest, and that the plaintiffs paid a $500,000 bribe to the judge who issued the ruling.

Alberto Guerra, who presided over the case from 2003 to 2004, made the allegations in a sworn statement filed by Chevron on Monday in support of a lawsuit in Manhattan federal district court accusing the Ecuadorean plaintiffs and their lawyers of fraud.

"Another participant in the fraud has now come forward rather than wait to be exposed by others," Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs, in a statement called Guerra a "disgraced former Ecuadorean judge who is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by Chevron to make false allegations about the Ecuador trial court judgment."

Guerra was not available to comment.

The filing is the latest in an ever-escalating two-decade battle between Chevron and residents of Ecuador's Lago Agrio over oil extraction in the region.

Residents claimed that Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001, polluted the rainforest and water supplies with hundreds of unlined waste pits from 1964 to 1992, damaging crops and public health including deaths from cancer.

Chevron claimed that its share of the waste pits had been cleaned up and that its activities were not responsible for environmental and public health damage.   Continued...

Gas prices are displayed at a Chevron gas station in Los Angeles, California October 9, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni