Former Ecuadorian judge denies fraud, defends Chevron ruling

Tue Nov 5, 2013 5:34pm EST
 
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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former Ecuadorean judge who issued a $19 billion pollution judgment against Chevron Corp (CVX.N: Quote) testified on Tuesday that he wrote the ruling alone, two weeks after another judge testified that he had been paid to ghostwrite much of the decision.

Chevron has accused U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger of bribing the judges to win the award for a group of villagers who lived in a contaminated area of northeastern Ecuador.

On the surface, the statements from Nicolas Zambrano, the former judge who testified on Tuesday, appeared to go against Chevron's claim that the judgment was a result of fraud.

But during several hours of tough questioning in a federal court in New York, a Chevron lawyer was able to zero in on several potential discrepancies in the judge's account.

Zambrano repeatedly insisted that he had authored the 188-page opinion on his own.

"It's your testimony that nobody else wrote any of those words?" asked Randy Mastro, a lawyer for Chevron, which called Zambrano as a witness.

"Yes," Zambrano replied through a translator.

In 2011, Zambrano awarded $18 billion to the villagers for contamination that occurred between 1964 and 1992 at an oil field operated by Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron. The award was increased to $19 billion to cover fees.   Continued...

 
A waste pit filled with crude oil left by Texaco drilling operations years earlier lies in a jungle clearing near the Amazonian town of Sacha, Ecuador, October 21, 2003, on the day of the start of a landmark trial where Ecuadoran Indians are seeking to force ChevronTexaco to clean up the environmental contamination left behind from Texaco's operations. REUTERS/Lou Dematteis