UPDATE 4-Argentine judge embargoes $19 bln Chevron assets

Wed Nov 7, 2012 7:18pm EST
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* Argentine lawsuit stems from $19 bln ruling against Chevron

* Chevron says Ecuador judgment fraudulent, unenforceable

* Plaintiffs have also filed lawsuits in Canada and Brazil

By Guido Nejamkis and Eduardo Garcia

BUENOS AIRES/QUITO, Nov 7 (Reuters) - An Argentine judge has embargoed up to $19 billion in Chevron assets in connection with an environmental lawsuit by Ecuadorean villagers, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said on Wednesday, the latest volley in a two-decade-long legal saga that now spans several countries.

An Ecuadorean court last year ordered Chevron Corp to pay the enormous sum for contamination of watersheds over nearly 30 years that the plaintiffs say sickened indigenous tribespeople and farmers in the Ecuadorean Amazon.

Chevron has refused to make any payments and accuses Ecuadorean courts of fraud. Because the company has few assets in the Andean nation, the plaintiffs are seeking enforcement of the ruling in other countries including Brazil and Canada.

"The freeze order applies to the entire $19 billon amount of the Ecuador judgment, meaning that Chevron will effectively be barred from investing further in Argentina unless it wants to risk seizure of those assets as well," the plaintiffs said in a statement.

The ruling could pave the way for the plaintiffs to collect on the award. But it could also be just another round of judicial ping-pong in a complex legal battle that has included frequent appeals and vicious accusations.   Continued...