Former Ecuadorean judge testifies to bribery in Chevron case

Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:28pm EDT
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By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former Ecuadorean judge testified on Wednesday that he ghost-wrote rulings for another judge who ordered Chevron Corp (CVX.N: Quote) to pay $19 billion to villagers whose land had been polluted by oil exploration.

The former judge was testifying at a trial in New York in which Chevron accuses U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger of bribing the Ecuadorean judges in order to win the award for the villagers.

Donziger has denied bribing the officials.

On the witness stand on Wednesday, the former judge, Alberto Guerra, said he met in 2009 with Donziger and other representatives of the villagers at Honey & Honey, a restaurant in Quito.

Guerra said another lawyer representing the villagers had already agreed to pay him $1,000 a month to ghost-write court orders for the presiding judge, Nicolas Zambrano. Zambrano, who was also being paid, agreed to expedite the case and limit procedural avenues by which Chevron could delay it, Guerra said.

Donziger was fully aware of the arrangement, Guerra said.

"Mr. Donziger thanked me for the work that I was going to do," Guerra said of the restaurant meeting.

Randy Mastro, a lawyer for Chevron, asked Guerra if he understood he was violating Ecuadorean law by agreeing to ghost-write Zambrano's orders.   Continued...

Former Ecuadorean judge Alberto Guerra Bastida (L) leaves the federal court in New York October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer