Former Judge Testifies to Taking Bribes to Write Rulings Ordering Chevron to Pay Villagers $19 Billion

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 23 2013 9:32 PM

Former Judge Testifies to Taking Bribes to Write Rulings Ordering Chevron to Pay Villagers $19 Billion

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Protesters, some in traditional dress and with black hands representing oil, demonstrate in front of a United States courthouse against Chevron on October 15, 2013 in New York City.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A former Ecuadorean judge told a New York courtroom on Wednesday that he ghost-wrote rulings for another judge ordering Chevron to pay $19 billion in compensation to villagers whose land was polluted by oil exploration.

The former judge, Alberto Guerra, testified that he met with U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger who is accused by Chevron of bribing judges in Ecuador to win the multibillon dollar award, Reuters reports. Guerra is a key witness for Chevron in the case that disputes the $19 billion court order. On the stand, according to Reuters,Guerra said another lawyer representing the villagers had already agreed to pay him $1,000 a month to ghost-write court orders for the presiding judge, Nicolas Zambrano. Zambrano, who was also being paid, agreed to expedite the case and limit procedural avenues by which Chevron could delay it, Guerra said.”

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Here’s more on the case from Reuters:

Chevron wants U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the trial without a jury, to prevent Donziger and villagers he represents from collecting the award in U.S. courts or from profiting from it in any way.
The award stemmed from environmental contamination between 1964 and 1992 at an oil field in northeastern Ecuador operated by Texaco, which Chevron bought in 2001. Chevron says Texaco cleaned up its share of waste before turning the field over to state-owned Petroecuador.
But in 2011, Zambrano awarded $18 billion to people from the Lago Agrio area, which was affected by the pollution. The court subsequently increased the award to $19 billion to cover fees.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.