Oil Giant's Unclean Hands Soil Its Image
Chevron's fraudulent conduct during the Ecuador trial for massive oil contamination is on public display for all to see in recently-released U.S. court documents.
They reveal that Chevron has paid its "dirty tricks" operative Diego Borja $2.2 million in retainer fees, living expenses, income taxes and legal fees.
They also reveal that Borja was one of several testers at contaminated well sites who manipulated the soil and water samples to Chevron's advantage before submitting them to the court as evidence.
Here's some background for those of you new to the Borja story.
In 2009 Borja, along with his mysterious partner Wayne Hansen, secretly videotaped a judge in a failed effort to derail the trial that charged Chevron with deliberately contaminating the rainforest and resulted in an $18 billion judgment against the company.
Chevron whisked Borja and his family out of Ecuador and into the U.S. after Borja turned over the tapes to Chevron. Later, though, Borja threatened to turn evidence against Chevron if he was not paid handsomely for them.
Since that revelation, the Borjas have been practically under house arrest in Houston, but the money ain't shabby so maybe they don't mind. See court documents here.
Chevron has picked up their rent, the car payments and the costs for a washer, dryer, and all their furniture. Both Borjas get retainer checks every month. The wife has a job with Chevron but nobody seems to know what she does exactly. Borja is unemployed.
Why is this a problem? Borja is likely to be a witness in pending litigation and hearings about the $18 billion judgment. Will Borja bite the hand that feeds him? We doubt it, and that's exactly the Chevron plan.
We hope the news media won't let Chevron get away with it. Hats are off to the reporters who have taken the time to peruse these documents.
See articles by Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones, Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News, Rebecca Beyer of the Daily Journal and Braden Reddall and Dan Levine of Reuters.
Sheppard recently revealed a Chevron document that directed Chevron employees or consultants on how to test for contamination at the well sites in Ecuador. Bottom line: prior to the official testing day, go and figure out where the clean spots are; test far away and uphill from the unlined pits full of pure crude; any "dirty" samples you find, send them, not to the court, but a secret lab. Read more here.
Klasfeld got his hands on some eye-popping emails, after Chevron mistakenly sent them to him, that confirmed the oil giant had “cut a deal” with its most infamous contamination tester -- none other than Diego Borja. He also reported on an email that revealed Hansen, an American citizen, is living large in Peru. In another email, Hansen thanked a Chevron private investigator for his help, encouraging the PI to join him in Peru where one could "live like a king" for $1,200 a month. See here. Care to speculate how Hansen ended up in Peru? Hint: He landed there only a few weeks after he was subpoenaed by the Government of Ecuador about the secret tapes he made with Borja. He basically escaped the U.S. before the Government of Ecuador could depose him for questioning.
Beyer quoted a law professor at Pennsylvania State University questioning the ethics and legality of Chevron's payments to Borja as a potential witness.
Reddall and Levine reported on Borja's statements, recorded by a childhood friend, that Chevron had "cooked" evidence in the trial and that he would turn evidence against Chevron if he wasn't paid for the tapes.
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