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U.S. Judge Sits On Documents That Tie Chevron to Corruption In Ecuador

Written by aaa   
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 23:30
A U.S. federal judge in San Francisco is inexplicably delaying the release of documents that would shed light on Chevron's extensive misconduct in judicial proceedings in Ecuador where it recently was hit with a $19 billion judgment for dumping toxic waste into the Amazon rainforest.

More than a year has passed since Federal Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins was asked by rainforest villagers in Ecuador's rainforest to force Chevron and the Mason Investigative Group to release hundreds of pages of material related to a scheme to bribe an Ecuadorian judge and undermine the court process there, said Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians.

More recently, the Republic of Ecuador – represented by the U.S. law firm Winston & Strawn – urged Cousins to release the documents, all to no avail. Cousins heard extensive argument on the issue more than a year ago and the documents have been on his desk for months pending decision.

"We believe Judge Cousins is sitting on a treasure trove of documents that will shed light on Chevron's corrupt activities in Ecuador and are highly relevant to ongoing litigation," said Hinton. "He should act immediately on these long-overdue requests."

The government of Ecuador first asked for the documents in March 2011. That August, Northern California District Judge Charles Breyer ordered Chevron and the Mason Group to produce the documents.

When Chevron and the Mason Group claimed most of the documents were privileged, Judge Cousins was ordered to review them; his ruling has been pending ever since.

Documents that the plaintiffs are urging Cousins to release include:

The contents of an IPhone from Chevron operative Diego Borja, believed to be held by Robert Mittelstaedt, a lawyer from Chevron law firm Jones Day in San Francisco. Borja has said the information on the phone proves that Chevron "cooked evidence" during the trial and if released would allow the villagers to win the case "just like that".
Emails and other materials that prove Borja was paid more than $2 million in hush money from Chevron to maintain his loyalty.

Materials related to Wayne Hansen, a convicted felon used by Chevron to help Borja try to bribe a judge in Ecuador. With the help of the Mason Group, Hansen was moved from California to Peru, apparently to avoid being served with a subpoena.

Early drafts of an "affidavit" prepared by Borja that will prove that his later affidavit submitted to the court contains false information.

Materials and correspondence that shows that Mittelstaedt and his partners managed the intimate details of Borja's life after he mysteriously moved from Ecuador to the U.S., at Chevron's expense, to evade an official investigation in his home country. Mittelstaedt, for example, took care of payments for Borja's cell phone, plane tickets, rent, and furniture.
Chevron hired several powerhouse law firms to try to persuade Cousins to block release of the documents. Those firms include Arguedes, Cassman & Headley, Jones Day, and Boies Schiller.

"Clearly Chevron is willing to spend any amount necessary to prevent or to delay the release of these documents," said Hinton.

The Republic of Ecuador, in a letter to Cousins sent in August, said it "is not only being denied the right to review the documents it has been seeking for over a year, but is unable to pursue necessary related discovery" for its arbitration case against Chevron.

Cousins was appointed to the federal judiciary in 2011. Before joining the Court, he was a federal prosecutor in the antitrust division of the Department of Justice – ironically, the same division that was formerly headed by Chevron's current General Counsel, R. Hewitt Pate.

After an eight-year trial, Chevron in 2011 was found liable for deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and forests to save on production costs. Evidence before the court showed the contamination caused an outbreak of cancer and decimated indigenous groups.

Having won their judgment, the Ecuadorians have filed asset seizure actions against Chevron in Canada and Brazil to force the company to abide by the Ecuador court ruling. The trial was held in Ecuador at Chevron's request after originally being filed in U.S. court.

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