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ECUADOR: Chevron Offers Evidence in Ecuador Bribery Case

by ReutersNew York Times
September 7th, 2009

The Chevron Corporation said Monday that it gave Ecuadorean authorities videos and e-mail messages it said provided evidence of a bribery scheme linked to a $27 billion environmental damages lawsuit against the oil company.

Last week, the judge hearing the case, Juan Núñez, recused himself just days after Chevron handed Ecuadorean and American authorities a secretly recorded video of the magistrate talking of ruling against Chevron later this year.

Ecuador’s attorney general began investigating the bribery and misconduct accusations against Mr. Núñez after Chevron said it would ask for him to be disqualified from the case. The judge says he committed no wrongdoing.

“In a letter to Ecuador authorities, the company asked that several important points be examined by the investigation into the scheme, which implicated the judge hearing the case, as well as ruling party and government officials,” the company said in a statement.

Chevron has complained before about government interference in the 16-year-old case, in which indigenous communities have accused Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, of damaging the environment and their health while operating petroleum facilities in the region.

An expert appointed by the Ecuadorean court said last year that Chevron should pay around $27 billion, including more than $8 billion in unjust enrichment.

Chevron said last week that the video, posted at the TexacoEcuador YouTube site, shows a man at another meeting identifying himself as a representative of Ecuador’s ruling party and discussing a $3 million bribe for contracts, of which Mr. Núñez would receive a third.

The plaintiffs have accused Texaco of dumping billions of gallons of polluted water in the jungle around where they had lived for more than two decades before the company left Ecuador in the early 1990s.

The Amazon Defense Coalition, a plaintiffs’ group, said Friday that Mr. Núñez’s decision to recuse himself clears the path for the legal proceedings to continue uninterrupted. But the group said the recusal did not “change the overwhelming evidence against Chevron.”

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