Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chevron's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Thriller -- Even Better Than The Movie

Chevron is spying on the two lead attorneys for the Ecuadorians to intimidate and harass them,reports the Amazon Defense Coalition. The lawyers, Pablo Fajardo and Steven Donziger, helped the Ecuadorians win an $18 billion judgment against the company for massive oil contamination. See press release here.

During an eight-year trial in Ecuador, Chevron has operated a corporate espionage campaign out of its San Ramon, California and Quito offices, hiring no less than four private investigative firms to carry out various plots in an effort to derail the lawsuit, but with no success.

In January, an Ecuador appellate court upheld the lower court's $18 billion judgment for what is considered to be the world's largest oil-related environmental disaster. Under Ecuador law, the Ecuadorians may enforce the judgment now, but they will have to do so in other countries' court systems because Chevron has refused to pay and has sold its major assets in Ecuador.

A private investigator hired by the Ecuadorians told the two lawyers he has seen tapes of Donziger under surveillance, and another said he watched individuals in cars follow Donziger and his family in New York City, where they live. The license plates indicated the cars had been rented.

In Ecuador, Fajardo was physically assaulted by two individuals who said they were serving legal papers on him on Chevron's behalf, even though Ecuador does not "serve" papers, as in the United States. Other Ecuadorian lawyers and staff have reported that they are being followed and have had backpacks and other items stolen.

This is not the first time this has happened. The United Nations directed Ecuador to provide security for the Ecuadorians and their lawyers in 2005, when similar incidents took place. See here.

Chevron has long relied on corporate spies to try and undermine the Ecuadorians' lawsuit.

Remember Diego Borja and Wayne Hansen?

A Chevron contractor, Diego Borja, admitted to a childhood friend he was Chevron's "dirty tricks" operative in Ecuador. The company said it paid him to lift soil and water samples from oil sites during the trial. In a recorded conversation, though, Borja said, his real job was to undermine the trial, something he said Chevron's lawyers had never been able to do in court.

On audio tapes, Borja said that he tried to spy on the Ecuadorians' testing lab by pretending to be someone else; that he switched dirty samples for clean samples; and that could prove Chevron had "cooked" evidence in the case. See here.

Borja partnered with an American named Wayne Hansen, to secretly videotape one of the judges who heard the case. Hansen and Borja used a spy pen and spy watch to tape the judge. They tried to offer him a bribe on camera. When the judge prepared to leave the room, Hansen badgered him to admit Chevron was guilty. The judge never discussed much less accepted a bribe and repeatedly told the two that he could not comment on Chevron's guilt. See here and here.

Nonetheless, Chevron has paraded the tapes in front of the news media and U.S. courts to argue fraud.

The online legal publication, Courthouse News, obtained emails written by Hansen to two of Chevron's private investigative firms hired to "handle" the California man after the Ecuadorians revealed Hansen was a convicted drug felon, not a legitimate businessman looking for contracts in Ecuador, as Chevron claimed.

Hansen wrote to Chevron's private investigator Oliver Beard of Investigative Research Services, Inc., that he wanted a "deal" similar to what Borja had received for the secret videotapes of the judge. Hansen wrote: "I need to hear from a real player with a plan for Wayne Hansen."

Not long after, Chevron hired another private investigative firm, The Mason Investigative Group, to deal with Hansen who vanished from the U.S. after being subpoenaed in 2011 under federal court order. According to the Courthouse News emails, Hansen thanked Eric Mason, the firm's president, for helping him move to Peru where he was "living like a king."

Eric Mason, Chevron's Spy

Currently Chevron, Borja and The Mason Group are fighting the release of discovery documents to the Ecuadorians and the Government of Ecuador in a California federal court. Out of 700 documents, only 13 largely irrelevant documents have been turned over by Chevron, Borja and The Mason Group. The Ecuadorians and the Government of Ecuador have been trying for over a year to obtain the documents in the face of repeated obstruction by Chevron and lawyers for The Mason Group and Borja, all of whom are paid by Chevron.

Legal papers filed in the discovery action accuse all three of trying to hide Chevron's "involvement in concocting and executing a plan to undermine the environmental litigation in Ecuador by tainting the presiding judge with a manufactured scandal."

Remember Mary Cuddehe and Sam Anson?

Sam Anson, Chevron's Spy

In 2010, the Atlantic Monthly exposed yet another clandestine effort by Chevron to throw the case.

Mary Cuddehe, an Iowa-born graduate of Columbia University with a Masters degree in Journalism, published an article documenting that the investigative firm Kroll has been running an espionage operation in Ecuador on behalf of Chevron.

Sam Anson, an investigator for Kroll, offered Cuddehe $20,000 for six weeks of work to appear as an independent journalist while working as an undercover spy in Ecuador. Her job was to spy on sick Ecuadorians to determine if they really had an illness. Anson paid for Cuddehe to travel to Bogota where the case was explained and she was offered the money in the suite of a luxury hotel. She later declined the job and instead wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly.

Chevron refused to comment on Cuddehe, but the company remains associated with Anson who spies for the oil giant full time.

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