Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Filmmaker Vows to Fight Chevron's Demand for Ecuador Footage, Cites 1st Amendment

As I wrote about in my last post, the latest target of Chevron's abusive legal tactics in the Ecuador case is critically-acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger, director of the award-winning documentary Crude. Chevron is going after Joe because Crude dared to look unflinchingly at the oil giant's legacy in Ecuador's Amazon region, and won large audiences, accolades from critics, and prestigious awards while doing so.

A couple of weeks ago, Chevron asked the Federal court in New York to allow it to subpoena Berlinger, demanding he turn over "all of the 'Crude' footage that was shot, acquired, or licensed in connection with the the movie 'Crude'" – more than 600 hours of footage on hundreds of tapes and across countless digital platforms, collected over several years. On Friday, lawyers representing Berlinger and his production company filed a motion opposing the subpoena.

Berlinger and his attorneys have vowed to "vigorously" fight the subpoena, saying that his raw footage is protected no differently than a reporter's confidential sources under the First Amendment and what is referred to as journalist's privilege.

Yesterday, The San Francisco Chronicle explains why Chevron's lawyers say they want the footage. Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson alleges that Berlinger captured a moment in which lawyers for the plaintiffs appear to be present during a community meeting about the health impacts of oil contamination that was supposed to be conducted without influence from either side.

But Berlinger, who was there and had developed an intimate understanding of the case, said the lawyers weren't actually present during the meeting referenced by Chevron.

According to the Chronicle:

"The scene in question, Berlinger said, briefly shows the lawyers at an earlier plaintiffs' meeting that included a consultant who was later hired by the court to perform the cancer survey."

Chevron says they want the footage to see if Berlinger “may have also unwittingly captured on film other instances" of the plaintiffs misconduct. But Berlinger just explained away the one instance the company highlighted to justify its demand that an investigative journalist turn over his constitutionally-protected materials.

Berlinger explains it well on's 'documentaries blog':

"Our opposition has nothing to do with Chevron's position regarding issues raised in the lawsuit depicted in the film, but rather represents our concern about this as an unnecessary breach of our First Amendment rights -- not only as they pertain to Crude, but also with long term implications for investigative documentary filmmaking, which represents a singularly important form of in-depth reporting in the contemporary media forum."

"And this position has, as I said, has nothing to do with the fact that it's Chevron -- the defendant -- requesting the footage. This would be my position equally strongly if it were the plaintiffs who wanted access to everything we'd shot for the film."

Berlinger summarizes his opposition to Chevron's subpoena in comments to film industry website

"There is a lot at stake here. This is a financial burden for a documentarian to fight this fight. But if Chevron is successful in getting a journalist to turn over a work in process, it will have a chilling effect on this kind of documentary making in future."

Berlinger will face off with Chevron's hired gun attorneys from law firm Gibson Dunn at a hearing on Friday, April 30th at 10:15 am, at the U.S. District Court, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse (500 Pearl St. in New York), before Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.

– Han

Han Shan is the Coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chevron Lawyers Going After Doc Film CRUDE for Daring to Reveal Truth in Ecuador

In a move that somehow simultaneously combines unbelievable hubris with pathetic desperation, Chevron has filed a motion to subpoena some 600 hours of footage shot by acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger during the making of his award-winning documentary film Crude.

On April 9th, Chevron filed a motion for discovery, asking the federal court in NY to allow the company to serve Berlinger a subpoena for "all of the 'Crude' footage that was shot, acquired, or licensed in connection with the the movie 'Crude'."

Crude, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and opened in theaters across the U.S. last fall, tells the story of the 17-year long legal battle between Chevron and 30,000 indigenous and campesino residents of Ecuador's Amazon ravaged by oil drilling by Texaco (now Chevron).

Attorneys for Crude director Joe Berlinger filed a motion on Friday to oppose Chevron's request for the footage. Maura Wogan, attorney for Berlinger and his production company said that they will "vigorously oppose Chevron’s attempt to get to these materials." Lawyers for both sides will appear in court for a hearing on the matter this Friday, April 30th in federal court in New York.

In a press release, Berlinger said:

"Documentary filmmakers play an essential role in exposing social injustice. As with traditional journalists, their sources must be protected or we risk the demise of this kind of comprehensive investigative reporting."

Today, Berlinger, who has frequently explored themes of crime, punishment, and justice in his influential documentaries, told The New York Times, "I would equally be resisting a subpoena from the plaintiffs."

Quite simply, this is a case of Chevron harassing an acclaimed filmmaker for merely training his lens upon the company's legacy in the Amazon. It surely has the intended affect of intimidating other journalists who may turn their attention to Chevron's massive oil contamination in Ecuador.

Chevron and its high-powered lawyers at international corporate law behemoth Gibson Dunn are surely also hoping to mine the footage for any material that they might find useful for their relentless public relations schemes to try to discredit the plaintiffs, their attorney's and the courts in Ecuador.

But regardless of Chevron's motivation, Maura Wogan of Frankfurt Kurnit, the lawyers for Mr. Berlinger and his production company, says Berlinger is protected under what is known as journalist's or reporter's privilege.

Ms. Wogan:

"Unused film footage and other editorial materials from Crude are protected by the journalist’s privilege under federal law and the First Amendment."

Chevron's latest legal maneuver is another example of the desperate and abusive lengths the company will go– and the resources it's willing to commit– to evade responsibility for its oil pollution in Ecuador. This move adds insult to injury for the thousands of people in Ecuador's rainforest region who continue to suffer the impacts of the oil giant's pollution in their communities.

– Han

Han Shan is the Coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chevron in Ecuador: The Hypocrisy is Deafening

Yesterday, Chevron's 'Amazon Post' blog posted a story about how a "Chevron technical team" –  operating for some mysterious reason in the Amazon rainforest region of Ecuador – discovered two oil spills in the region.

The author of the post – that is, Chevron – wonders why there hasn't been an outcry by the Amazon Defense Coalition (Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia) – the organization of the plaintiffs who have filed suit to demand Chevron clean up massive oil contamination the company left in Ecuador over decades – or by U.S.-based solidarity organizations Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network.

It's more of Chevron's ridiculous 'gotcha!' PR spin and it's more than just hypocritical– it's insulting.

First of all, the Amazon Defense Coalition – or the Frente – as well as indigenous groups throughout the area have in fact gone after Petroecuador and other oil companies operating in the region on numerous occasions, demanding clean-up of spills, and a general increase in responsible operations.

Ironically, the photos Chevron posted on the blog show remediation of the spills underway. Note the caption below the photo.

April 10_2010: Remediation activities of recent Petroecuador oil spill from production line near San Carlos.

In the early 1990s, as Chevron (then Texaco) was shutting down its operations in Ecuador, the company commissioned two audits to assess the environmental impacts of its operations. Texaco had been drilling for nearly three decades.

In 1993, Canadian environmental consulting firm HBT AGRA, hired by Chevron/Texaco, revealed that:

  • “Prior to 1990, no spill prevention methods were in place.”

  • “A spill contingency plan should be developed for all facilities.”
  • “Waste reduction and pollution prevention plans are currently being developed. Prior to 1990 [when Texaco was the sole operator] no plans were in place.”
“Oil spill material…is disposed of into the produced water stream."
  • “Well site spills have occurred at 158 of the 163 assessed sites.”
  • In terms of spill prevention and control, the other of Chevron/Texaco's own audits, performed in this case by a multinational 'geotechnical' company called Fugro McClelland, revealed,

    “[t]here was no indication of a pipeline monitoring program. Other than a vacuum truck, there was no equipment observed for containment and control of spills.”

    The audit goes on to say:

    “Spills which were judged as degraded or heavily degraded were attributed to TEXPET’s [TEXPET = Texaco Petroleum, now Chevron] operations from 1964 to 1990
," ... "In addition, spills fresh or degraded which were the result of improper equipment design were considered the responsibility of TEXPET.”
    This last part is also at the core of the case against Chevron. What the company's own audit is essentially saying is that, spills caused by improper equipment design – even if occurring after the departure of Chevron/Texaco – are still the responsibility of the company.

    The same audit recommends:

    “Facility modifications will be required at those facilities to bring the discharges into compliance with the current regulatory standards.”

    In other words, unless Chevron/Texaco's upgrades the oil infrastructure it deliberately designed and built in a substandard way, future spills remain its responsibility. But I won't harp on this point– the relative responsibility of Chevron/Texaco for spills by Petroecuador operating equipment designed and built by Chevron/Texaco is something that the courts in Ecuador are in the process of deciding.

    Back to the spills that a "Chevron technical team" discovered recently. Just as the company has spent tens of millions of dollars on high-powered lobbyists, expensive PR firms, and the best lawyers money can buy, it seems that Chevron would rather spend its resources in this case sending a crew to capture photos of recent oil spills (in the midst of remediation) than creating a plan to clean up the massive oil contamination it has abandoned in the region for decades.

    Chevron's post refers to one of the spills occurring "in the heart of Cofan indigenous country." As readers of this blog may recall, Emergildo Criollo is a Cofan leader who recently traveled to Chevron's headquarters and even the home of Chevron's new CEO, John Watson. Emergildo wanted Mr. Watson, who has never visited Ecuador, to simply hear his story.

    Emergildo Criollo Petition Delivery to Chevron

    And it's a heartbreaking story – of how, in the 1970s, when Chevron/Texaco was the sole operator of the oil fields, black crude literally covered the rivers that his tribe once relied upon for fishing, drinking, bathing. He recalls how two of his children died after coming into contact with massive oil spills that Chevron/Texaco never even made a pretense of remediating. Of course, when Emergildo went to Chevron's headquarters in California, Chevron sent only its PR people to talk with Emergildo, and Mr. Watson couldn't be bothered to hear his heartbreaking story.

    So thank you, Chevron/Texaco, for pointing out these recent spills. It is indeed infuriating to see the way in which oil development in Ecuador's rainforest region continues to pollute the environment, and taint the water.

    But let us not forget, Chevron. Over decades of operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon, you have admitted to dumping 18 billion gallons of "produced water" – the toxic wastewater that comes up from underground with the oil during drilling– into Amazon rivers and streams. According to your own audit [HBT AGRA], “Produced water has historically not been tested prior to disposal…” and “Produced water is being discharged to the environment in all cases.”

    And it's estimated you spilled more than 17 million gallons of crude, apparently without any kind of "spill contingency plan." And you carved out over 900 open-air, unlined toxic waste pits around your well sites, that were designed to overflow and allow toxins to contaminate groundwater. Your own testing during the trial shows that even the tiny percentage of waste pits you claim to have remediated in the mid-1990s with the hopes of having the case dismissed still contain illegal levels of toxic contamination. In other words, not only was your 1990s "clean-up" designed to only address a pathetically minimal portion of your contamination, it was also a fraud.

    Chevron, wondering why the communities who have long suffered from your toxic mess aren't up in arms about recent spills that Petroecuador is in the midst of remediating is like wondering why someone dying of cancer isn't more worried about a nasty bug bite.

    As I said before, Chevron, it's cynical and insulting. And your hypocrisy is truly deafening.

    – Han

    Han Shan is coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Irony Alert: Chevron Lies in Complaints About Media Portrayal of Ecuador Case

    When 60 Minutes producers called Chevron to let them know they were planning an investigative report on its oil disaster in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest, you can be sure the oil giant's PR department went into overdrive.

    Before the piece aired, the company hired a former CNN reporter who peddles his previous credibility to make corporate videos for companies like Chevron. The video, with similar length and tone as a standard 60 Minutes segment was designed to look like a news report – "this is Gene Randall reporting" – and designed to respond to what Chevron knew the 60 Minutes piece would inevitably contain. The oil giant posted it on its website and Youtube three weeks before the 60 Minutes report aired on CBS.

    The New York Times published an article about the effort, with a long headline: 'When Chevron Hires Ex-Reporter to Investigate Pollution, Chevron Looks Good'. The article questions Chevron's use of "journalistic devices" in producing the video, and whether the company was trying to fool the casual observer. An executive producer for 60 Minutes complains that the ex-reporter got access to Chevron experts – like Chevron's top scientist – that were denied to him.

    When the 60 Minutes report finally aired, it was seen by millions, and most viewers were probably horrified when Chevron spokeswoman Silvia Garrigo said with a grimace, "there's naturally occurring oil on my face. That doesn't mean that I'm going to get sick from it."

    In the end, it didn't go well for Chevron.

    But as one of the largest companies that has ever existed in history, Chevron has astonishing resources to put behind its effort to evade responsibility for contamination in the Amazon. Not only would its PR department work to get out new stories, it was even going to devote time and energy to fighting the 60 Minutes story after the fact.

    They reached out to Martha Hamilton at the Columbia Journalism Review. In an 'audit' of the 60 Minutes report, she writes:

    A few months ago, Chevron turned to The Audit, the business-news desk of the Columbia Journalism Review. As part of its mission of covering business news and its upholding standards, The Audit from time to time has taken up complaints of business news subjects who feel they’ve been treated unfairly by news outlets. Now we’ve formalized the process with the creation of a dedicated Audit Arbiter. That would be me. In each case, I’ll look at the facts and render a judgment.
    She goes on to say:
    But first let’s be clear what it is I’m judging. I’m not rendering a judgment on whether Texaco/Chevron is responsible for the pollution.

    It tuns out that Hamilton thinks Chevron was treated unfairly. The only problem with her take on the journalism is that with the exception of a few minor things she could have found in even the most rigorous of reports, her criticisms are all based on Chevron's complaints that their viewpoint didn't come across properly.

    Actually, one of the comments on the article nails it:

    You set a very troubling precedent by offering yourself--and CJR--as an arbiter of investigative journalism, then accepting the subject of the investigation's version of things as incontrovertible fact.

    And it turns out to be a serious problem, because Chevron lied to Hamilton and the Columbia Journalism Review.

    In her 'audit', Hamilton looks at a part of the 60 Minutes segment in which correspondent Scott Pelley visits a man who lives next to a former Texaco well site called Shushufindi 38. In a moment that passes very quickly, Pelley, referring to the Ecuadorian man, narrates, "he says the pollution leaked into his water well."

    Hamilton argues that it's completely unfair to allow the man to claim that the oil pollution may have seeped into his well water.

    She then says, "...Petroecuador operated the site after Texaco left the country, according to Chevron."

    But in fact, according to court records, only Texaco operated the well site, which Texaco closed in 1984.

    An open-air, unlined toxic waste pit at Shushufindi 38 well site, operated exclusively by Texaco, now Chevron

    In the dispute over who should clean up the massive oil contamination in the Amazon, Chevron's management now realizes that they cannot rely on facts, or evidence, or scientific analysis. After all, the facts, evidence, and scientific analysis all point indisputably to Chevron's responsibility.

    Even the company doesn't really try to argue anymore against the fact that Texaco (now Chevron) operated in a reckless and deliberately substandard manner which polluted the environment for nearly three decades.

    But Chevron has learned that, when faced with inconvenient facts, they can hire high-powered lobbyists to try to get the US government to pressure Ecuador to crush the trial. Or have their in-house and hired-gun public relations spin-masters confuse the public and media.

    Or they can just lie.

    For more on Chevron's lies, and what Hamilton and the CJR missed, read this post on The Chevron Pit blog.

    – Han

    Han Shan is Coordinator of the Clean Up Ecuador Campaign

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    Confidential Whistleblower Hotline to Report Chevron Corruption in Ecuador

    In light of recent shocking revelations about longtime Chevron contractor Diego Borja, Amazon Watch and our allies at Rainforest Action Network are launching a confidential hotline for Chevron employees and others with pertinent information to report ‘suspect’ activities by the oil giant.

    This Chevron whistleblower hotline is toll-free and confidential. 1-877-844-4114 or email

    A confidential Spanish-language hotline is also being established in Ecuador. We hope Chevron employees and contractors, who worked in the oil pits and witnessed first hand the fraudulent “remediation” of the toxic oil pits for which Chevron is responsible, will come forward. Additionally, anyone with information about Chevron's attempts to corrupt the judicial process in Ecuador is encouraged to use the confidential hotline or email.

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Whistleblower Reveals Chevron Involved in Evidence Tampering in Ecuador Environmental Trial

    Last week, the Amazon Defense Coalition released a shocking whistleblower report about a former Chevron contractor caught on tape saying that he's been involved in attempts to corrupt the trial in Ecuador over the oil company's contamination in the Amazon.

    Diego Borja, recorded by an old friend who was disgusted by Borja bragging that he was running an "operation" for Chevron, says the oil giant "cooked" evidence in the trial and threatens that if he isn't taken care of, he'll turn over evidence that would ensure victory for the Amazon communities suing Chevron for environmental clean-up.

    It's explosive stuff, covered last week by The Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, and other media outlets.

    In hours of recorded conversation and saved MSN chats between Borja and his whistleblower friend, Borja reveals many other troubling allegations; about how he set up at least four 'front' companies to manage Chevron's testing of contamination samples during the trial, how his wife worked for a U.S.-based lab that Chevron used for testing samples, how he lied to gain entry to the lab where the plaintiffs were testing their samples with his Florida-based Chevron boss (the company's Latin America offices are based in Coral Gables), and how Chevron is paying him the equivalent of $10,000 U.S. per month in Ecuador, and paying the rent on a $6,000/month house in a gated community minutes from Chevron headquarters in San Ramon, CA, where he isn't subject to a subpoena from the court in Ecuador hearing the case against Chevron.

    The house where Chevron has kept its longtime contractor, Diego Borja, and his family hidden away near its headquarters in San Ramon, CA.

    The whole thing stinks, and predictably, Chevron is paying for Borja's San Francisco criminal defense attorney, and keeping him hidden from reporters and investigators.

    As Pablo Fajardo, lead attorney for the Amazon communities, says in a press release issued today,

    "These revelations are extraordinarily concerning and Chevron must explain its actions to the court."

    Borja says he has proof of his allegations against Chevron stored on his iPhone, as well as secreted away in Ecuador. He says his wife, Sara Portilla, also a former Chevron contractor and representative of the labs where Chevron had its samples "independently" analyzed, knows all about the evidence too.

    I've written here before and on Huffington Post that Chevron has increasingly resorted to a 'kitchen sink' strategy in attempting to evade responsibility for its oil contamination in the Amazon; tying up the Ecuadorean courts with endless motions, claims, and delays, lobbying Capitol Hill to pull trade preferences to pressure Ecuador to quash the trial, and waging an aggressive public relations campaign to confuse the public about the case.

    Now, with overwhelming evidence that it's responsible for massive, ongoing contamination at its former oil sites throughout the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, it seems that Chevron has been resorting to evidence tampering as well.

    It's time for Chevron to produce Borja's iPhone and any other relevant evidence for the court.

    Read this post on 'The Chevron Pit' for more excerpts from the transcripts of Diego Borja's conversations with his whistleblower friend.

    – Han

    Han Shan is Coordinator of the Clean Up Ecuador Campaign.

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Ecuador Press Conferences Release Evidence of Chevron's Corruption in Pollution Trial

    On Tuesday, reporters packed the Quito offices of the Amazon Defense Coalition (ADC) to hear the latest revelations about Chevron's attempts to corrupt the trial over its contamination of the Amazon rainforest region of Ecuador. The ADC released a shocking whistleblower report about longtime Chevron contractor Diego Borja. Today, members of the ADC held another press conference in Lago Agrio, the town in Ecuador's Amazon where the court is in the final stages of the trial.

    The ADC released recordings made by a friend of Borja's, in which Borja threatened to reveal damaging evidence "cooked" by Chevron in the environmental trial in Ecuador unless he received enough money for turning over to the oil giant secret videotapes he shot of bribery attempts connected to the case. He concocted the contrived 'corruption scandal' (that Chevron breathlessly announced in late August) with an American convicted felon early last summer.

    Borja also told his whistleblower friend that he had incriminating evidence against Chevron stored on his iPhone and in an undisclosed location in Ecuador that he could use as leverage if the company betrayed him.

    At the Quito press conference were all the major Ecuadorean outlets, along with wires such as EFE (the largest Spanish-language news wire), Agence France Presse, Dow Jones, and others.

    The speakers at the press conference were Luis Yanza, the community coordinator of the legal action against Chevron, Pablo Fajardo, the lead attorney, and Juan Pablo Saenz, an attorney on Fajardo's team (Fajardo & Yanza received the prestigious 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize for their advocacy).

    Luis Yanza called on Chevron to investigate and disclose the 'evidence' Borja has on his iPhone.

    During the press conference, Pablo Fajardo focused much of his attention on the disturbing disclosure that Diego Borja had helped to set up four companies to appear independent of Chevron, while directly assisting Chevron's legal defense team. He pointed to the fact that Borja's wife Sara Portilla worked for Chevron for four years and also represented Severn Trent Labs (STL), a U.S. laboratory Chevron described as "independent" that the company used to test field samples for contamination. Borja and his wife both signed 'chain of custody' documents with the Lago Agrio court that showed how the samples moved from the contamination site to the testing lab.

    Pablo Fajardo [center] and Luis Yanza [right].

    Pablo Fajardo concluded his remarks:

    It's an enormous indignation that one feels, that I feel, that a company as large and powerful as Chevron Corporation, has resorted to the extreme– committing crimes as grave as this one… destroying the honor our country, to not care that there are tens of thousands of Ecuadorian citizens, Indigenous groups, campesinos, women, children, dying due to toxins left by Chevron. This criminal and perverse company, in order to avoid one crime, they commit others to try to cover up the first one, such as this act of corruption. It's unfortunate that a company as big as Chevron continues to violate human rights in Latin America. In Ecuador, it's causing the death of hundreds of people and still, there aren't any judges who order that Chevron respect the judicial system and respect the life of human beings.

    It's interesting, that Mr. Borja is in his world– he lived in Ecuador, comfortably. He had four companies created by Chevron itself so that he could administer them. He worked for Chevron. He made money at the expense of the people of the Amazon, and now today he's comfortable in San Francisco* but one day he'll have to pay for the crime he committed.

    *Chevron has kept Diego Borja and his family hidden away at a $6,000-a-month house located just a few minutes from Chevron's corporate headquarters in San Ramon, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Photos & first-person reporting came from Amazon Watch's Ecuador Program Coordinator Kevin Koenig, who lives in Quito.

    – Han

    Han Shan is Coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Shocking New Revelations: Chevron's 'Dirty Tricks Guy' Says Company "Cooked" Evidence in Ecuador Trial

    Chevron's 'Dirty Tricks Guy' in Ecuador, Diego Borja: "Crime Does Pay"

    There are shocking new revelations about Chevron's attempts to corrupt the trial in Ecuador over the company's massive contamination of the Amazon rainforest.

    In recorded conversations released today, longtime Chevron contractor Diego Borja threatened to reveal damaging evidence "cooked" by Chevron in the environmental trial in Ecuador unless he received enough money for turning over secret videotapes to high-ranking Chevron executives. The revelations are contained in a report authored by San Francisco Bay Area-based attorney and Private Investigator Grant Fine.

    On the audiotapes, Borja said he has enough evidence to ensure a victory by the Amazon communities if Chevron failed to pay him what he was promised. Before turning over the videotapes to Chevron, Borja said he made sure Chevron "completely understood" he wanted payment for them.

    At one point, Borja laughs and says, "Crime does pay."

    Click here to read the press release and investigative report being released today by the Amazon Defense Coalition.

    A whistle-blower named Santiago Escobar brought the tapes to plaintiffs' representatives in Quito. Escobar, a childhood friend of Borja, first heard Borja speaking about an "operation he was doing for Chevron" at a 'discoteca' in Quito in June 2009. Disgusted by what he heard, Escobar later taped conversations and kept records of online chats he had with Borja.

    Santiago Escobar said:

    "Diego always bragged to us about what he was doing with the testing samples to help Chevron avoid prosecution. Everyone knew he was Chevron's dirty tricks guy. Over time, I became more disgusted with what Diego was doing. The videotapes and his interest in switching sides was the last straw for me."

    Borja says Chevron hired him to create four companies so his work for the oil company would appear “independent.” He suggests that the companies were connected to a laboratory to test contamination samples. Borja says the laboratory was not independent, but rather “belonged” to Chevron.

    The investigative report also revealed that Borja’s wife, Sara Portilla, worked for Chevron for four years and represented Severn Trent Labs (STL), a U.S. laboratory that Chevron described as an “independent” lab where it had its contamination samples tested. Court documents obtained by Grant Fine cite Borja and Portilla as representatives of STL. They both signed 'chain of custody' documents with the Lago Agrio court that showed how the samples moved from the contamination site to the testing lab.

    Chevron has kept its longtime contractor, Diego Borja, and his family hidden away at this $6,000-a-month house located just a few minutes from Chevron's corporate headquarters in San Ramon, California.

    According to Escobar, Borja told him he was taking instructions from his bosses at Chevron's Miami-based offices. The oil company has been hiding Borja in a $6000/month house with a swimming pool in a gated community near its headquarters, and is paying a high-profile San Francisco criminal defense attorney to represent him. While there's no way yet to prove it, Escobar even says that Borja told him that Chevron is paying him $100,000 a month!

    In August 2009, Chevron launched another round of fireworks in its campaign to evade responsibility in Ecuador – this time in the form of secretly-taped videos they claimed exposed corruption implicating the judge presiding over the trial. But since that time, the supposed scandal has unraveled with revelations about the secret video-taping of the judge, and the relationship between Chevron and the two men who made the videos – one a convicted felon, and the other a long-time Chevron contractor directly involved with the company's legal defense.

    The investigation into American Wayne Hansen – who posed as the owner of a remediation company willing to pay bribes for clean-up contracts – revealed that he has never worked in remediation, and is a convicted felon and drug trafficker with no visible means of financial support. Chevron paid for an attorney for Hansen but Hansen has since fired the attorney, and his current whereabouts are unknown.

    – Han

    Han Shan is the coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign