As the 17 year old lawsuit between oil giant Chevron and the Ecuadorian Indians draws to a close, the plaintiffs are arguing that they have uncovered damning new evidence that could seriously undermine the oil company’s legal case.
Texaco drilled for oil in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992, working in partnership with the state-run company Petroecuador, and Chevron bought Texaco in 2001.
The lawsuit alleges that Texaco deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic oil production process waste into unlined pits in the rainforest.
In a series of secretly recorded conversations, a longtime Chevron contractor called Diego Borja threatened to reveal damaging evidence “cooked” by Chevron unless he received enough money from the oil company.
The person who recorded the tapes, Santiago Escobar, a childhood friend of Borja’s, said “Diego always bragged to us about what he was doing with the testing samples to help Chevron avoid prosecution.”
Escobar continued: “Everyone knew he was Chevron’s dirty tricks guy. Overtime, I became more disgusted with what Diego was doing. The videotapes and his interest in switching sides was the last straw for me.”
At one point, Borja – who has appeared as the oil company’s witness in the trial laughed and said, “Crime does pay.”
Borja’s disclosures are found in a report released yesterday by a lawyer and investigator hired by the plaintiffs, and detail over six hours of audiotapes and 25 pages of online chats that were given to the plaintiffs. Among other revelations, Borja said:
• Chevron had “cooked” the evidence and, if the U.S. judge who sent the case to Ecuador in the first place ever knew, he would “close [Chevron] down.”
• If Chevron “tricked” him he would “immediately go to the other side… I have correspondence that talks about things you cannot even imagine, dude… I can’t talk about them here, dude, because I’m afraid, but they’re things that can make the [plaintiffs] win this just like that” at which point he snapped his fingers.
• The energy giant used him to set up four dummy companies to make them appear to be independent of Chevron, but in fact they were controlled by Chevron.
• The supposed “independent” laboratory that processed soil and water samples for Chevron to submit as evidence in the trial was not “independent” at all. “I have proof that they [the laboratories] were more than connected, they belonged to [Chevron],” said Borja, who also indicated he signed the contract to rent the house where Chevron’s laboratory was located.
• Borja conceded there was no bribe of the Ecuador trial judge, Juan Nunez, in the videotapes — confirming the long held contention of the plaintiffs and contradicting Chevron’s assertions. With the videotapes, Borja said he did in “two days” what Chevron had been trying to do for a year, which was to get the judge dismissed.
It has also come to light that Borja’s wife, Sara Portilla, worked for Chevron for four years and represented Severn Trent Labs (STL), a US laboratory that Chevron described as an “independent” lab to test its contamination samples.
Borja said that Chevron is paying $6,000 a month in rent for his large home with a swimming pool that abuts a golf course in a gated community near Chevron’s headquarters. Borja said that Chevron is paying him the U.S. equivalent of the salary he made in Ecuador, which was $10,000.
So it looks like crime does pay….