Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chevron’s Ecuador Corruption and Ricardo Reis Veiga

The environmental crime committed by Texaco in Ecuador – and now defended by Chevron in a multi-billion litigation there – is intimately tied to the malfeasance of Chevron lawyer Ricardo Reis Veiga. Reis Veiga is known as the architect of Chevron's fraud in Ecuador. It is no coincidence that Chevron has hidden the formerly high-profile Veiga under the sheets for some time now, trying to keep him out of public view while the awful consequences of his misconduct play out in the trial in Ecuador and in the health problems of thousands of people.

To put it bluntly, Reis Veiga was Texaco's corporate hit man in Ecuador. He used fraud, money, deceit and the oil giant's raw power to help it evade responsibility for the deliberate dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon while Texaco operated an oil concession from 1964 to 1990. Reis Veiga, along with ten Ecuadorian officials with whom he is accused of conspiring, is currently under indictment for fraud in Ecuador for lying about the results of a sham remediation Texaco did in the mid-1990s.

While Reis Veiga supervised the trial in Ecuador, terrible strategic mistakes were made. Chevron took numerous soil samples that proved that the previously remediated sites were in fact not remediated, even though Reis Veiga and his colleague and Chevron lawyer Rodrigo Perez Pallares signed off on the clean-up. Under Reis Veiga's brilliant supervision, Chevron's local lawyers essentially proved the case of the plaintiffs.

For this brilliant legal work, Chevron has spent tens of millions of dollars in fees.

The latest issue for Reis Veiga is the role he played in directing Chevron employee Diego Borja in his failed effort to entrap a trial judge in Ecuador in a bribery scandal to derail the trial where the company faces a $27.3 billion liability.

The so-called "bribery" videotapes have been discredited since Chevron released them in August 2009. They do not show anyone taking a bribe; the judge never discusses a bribe. The two men who made the videotapes are not the good Samaritans Chevron portrayed them to be. American Wayne Hansen is a convicted felon and inveterate liar; Borja is a man who bragged to a friend that "crime pays" and said that Chevron "cooked" evidence in the lawsuit, created a dummy laboratory to process soil samples, and engaged in all sorts of malfeasance that if known in full would allow the plaintiffs to win the case in the time it takes him to snap his fingers.

Borja has worked for Chevron in Ecuador since at least 2004. On tapes recorded by childhood friend Santiago Escobar, Borja said he was hired by and took all of his direction from Chevron's Miami office headed by none other than the indefatigable Reis Veiga. Let's just say this type of behavior would be consistent with Reis Veiga's historical pattern. See transcripts of Borja's recorded conversations with Santiago Escobar, the childhood friend. (Transcript 6, October 1, 2009 p. 7-8; Transcript 2, October 1, 2009, pages 2-3)

Borja for years collected soil samples for Chevron during the Ecuador trial, for which he was paid $10,000 per month – a millionaire's wage in Ecuador. His wife, Sara Portillo, worked at the so-called "independent" laboratory that processed the company's soil samples and then presented them as "evidence" to the court.

In his conversations with Escobar, Borja said Chevron was concerned about a possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violation should anyone discover that the oil company had anything to do with the bribery scandal. The Act prohibits American companies from bribing or otherwise offering benefits to foreign government officials to obtain business.

Borja wrote in an online chat: "Imagine I disappear and say that everything is planned by the company…. They'll shit themselves, because the corruption law would apply in that case, and they'd close down their operations in the U.S." (9/15 online chat).

Chevron's management needs to bring Reis Veiga out from under the sheets to answer some basic questions about his relationship to Borja and the video scandal.