Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tables Turned: Lawsuit Targets Chevron "Dirty Tricks" Operative in Ecuador

UPDATE 09/16: A U.S. federal judge has ordered Diego Borja to appear for a deposition on October 1st in San Francisco.

Chevron and its liars – oops, I mean lawyers – are about to get a taste of their own medicine.

As the San Francisco Daily Journal reported yesterday, Chevron's 'dirty tricks guy' in Ecuador, Diego Borja, has been targeted with a subpoena and a demand to sit for a deposition and tell the truth about his operations to undermine the trial over Chevron's contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Chevron has been on a legal rampage, filing motion after motion against the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' expert witnesses and consultants residing in the U.S. Most notably, the oil giant outraged 1st Amendment supporters when it subpoenaed hundreds of hours of raw footage from filmmaker Joe Berlinger whose film CRUDE examined Chevron's toxic legacy in Ecuador.

Now, as the Daily Journal writes, the tables have turned:

On Friday, Ecuador filed its own discovery request in San Francisco federal court under the same law Chevron has been using - 28 U.S.C. 1782, a statute designed to help parties obtain U.S.-based evidence for use in foreign proceedings. Ecuador is seeking to depose Diego Borja, one of two men who secretly videotaped a conversation with the original Ecuadorean judge in the case. In re Application of the Republic of Ecuador, 10-80225. Chevron claims the tapes showed the judge - who denied wrongdoing but recused himself - had already made up his mind to rule in the plaintiffs' favor as part of a bribery scheme. But Ecuador cites a report made by an investigator hired by the plaintiffs that suggests Borja is improperly linked to Chevron.

Last summer, Borja, a long-time Chevron employee in Ecuador who has been closely associated with the oil giant's legal defense in the environmental lawsuit, spearheaded the undercover sting operation against the judge overseeing the trial in Ecuador. Borja and a shady American former drug trafficker and convicted felon named Wayne Hansen posed as businessmen interested in contracts for environmental remediation should the plaintiffs prevail in the legal battle demanding Chevron clean up its oil contamination of the region.

As the Amazon Defense Coalition explains in a press release:

The court filings, made by the American law firm Winston & Strawn on behalf of Ecuadorian authorities fighting Chevron over an international arbitration claim, seek to depose Borja about his involvement in the sting operation, conducted with Borja's sidekick Wayne Hansen. In 2009, both Borja and Hansen used cameras hidden in a pen and a watch to secretly tape meetings with the trial judge presiding over the environmental case, and supposed government officials.

The men then turned over the tapes to Chevron, which posted them on YouTube. Chevron initially alleged the tapes showed an attempted bribery of the judge, but it was only the Chevron employee who discussed the bribe, and the judge was never in a meeting when a bribe was discussed.

But don't take their or my word for it. Reporting on revelations about the shady past of Borja's partner Wayne Hansen, the New York Times reported, simply:

"No bribes were shown in the tapes..."

In fact, Borja's plan to corrupt the trial and reap a windfall from Chevron has been unraveling since it was hatched.

In April, the Amazon Defense Coalition and Amazon Watch revealed a series of stunning admissions by Borja. A childhood friend of Borja's named Santiago Escobar, disgusted by Borja's bragging about his 'dirty tricks' for the company, recorded conversations and saved online chats in which Borja admits he "cooked" evidence in the trial and would reveal the damaging evidence unless he received enough money from Chevron for his 2009 sting operation.

Santiago Escobar has received death threats for blowing the whistle on Borja's operations but it didn't stop him from testifying before Ecuador's Prosecutor General's office about what he knew. And now, Borja will have to testify.

Among the quotes from the recordings cited in the legal filings is this gem:

"... I have correspondence [with Chevron officials] that talks about things you can't even imagine, dude... they're things that can make the Amazons win this just like this [snapping fingers]... I mean, what I have is conclusive evidence, photos of how they managed things internally."

And at one point, Borja laughs and says to his friend, "Crime does pay."

Before Chevron pushed its bullshit "corruption scandal" story out, the company paid to relocate Borja and his wife – who also apparently assisted in schemes to corrupt the trial – to the United States. For more than a year, Chevron has been paying $6,000 a month in rent for his large home with a swimming pool that abuts a golf course in a gated community only minutes away from Chevron's headquarters in San Ramon, CA. Chevron claimed to have moved Borja and his family to the U.S. for his "security" but it also helped him escape prosecution for any of the illegal activities he was involved in during the attempted sting operation against the judge, or in tampering with evidence in the trial.

Ironically, the fact that Borja is currently residing in the U.S. is what makes him subject to the legal action he now faces. The oil giant admitted a year ago that it had hired a high-powered and expensive criminal defense attorney for Borja, who was caught on tape talking about his "bosses" at Chevron directing his operations. Today, I'm sure those Chevron bosses are hoping the lawyers they've hired are worth their cost.

To the plaintiffs and many of the people who have watched with disgust at how Chevron has waged a dirty and deceitful campaign to evade responsibility for environmental devastation and human suffering in Ecuador, Diego Borja is but a bit player in the wide-ranging criminal enterprise that Chevron has built around this case. And none of it compares to the crimes the oil giant committed against the indigenous people whose way of life ended with the company's arrival in their land.

But hopefully, this latest legal action, and a thorough interrogation of Chevron's self-proclaimed 'dirty tricks' guy, Diego Borja, will help to further unravel the web of lies that Chevron has woven to conceal the truth about its poisonous legacy in Ecuador.


San Francisco Daily Journal, September 14, 2010:
With Discovery Bid, Ecuador Turns Tables On Chevron

Amazon Defense Coalition press release, September 14, 2010:
Lawsuit Targets Chevron "Dirty Tricks" Operative Over Ecuador Video Corruption Scandal

The whistleblower report on Diego Borja, including recordings of him spilling the beans to his childhood friend about his involvement in Chevron's systematic attempts to corrupt the trial:
Chevron's Dirty Tricks Operative in Ecuador, Diego Borja: Whistleblower Report

And for further background, read two Huffington Post articles I wrote:

First, I blew the lid off the whole supposed "corruption scandal" only days after Chevron announced it last fall:
Chevron's 'Dirty Tricks Operation' in the Amazon

Then I revealed the shockingly shady past of Diego Borja's convicted felon, drug-trafficker, partner-in-crime Wayne Hansen:
Chevron's Man in Ecuador: Felon, Drug-Trafficker, and Liar, Oh My!

– Han

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

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