Chevron Makes Public Ecuador Plaintiffs’ Email, Latin American Media Raises Questions About Alleged Fraud by Plaintiffs Against Chevron

The leading Spanish language news agency and the fourth largest news agency in the world, EFE Newspaper has published the following story on the Chevron Ecuador case on its Latin American newswire:

The oil multinational Chevron today distributed an email obtained through a US Tribunal in which one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, in the multi billion lawsuit filed against the company in Ecuador, alerts that the disclosing of certain documents could put them in jail.

In this email dated March 30, 2010, lawyer Julio Prieto warns that the disclosing, by judicial order, of the correspondence between the lawyers and Stratus Consulting could have “potentially devastating effects in Ecuador”.

“Apart from bringing down the case, we could all end up in jail”, tells Prieto to Steven Donziger, the plaintiffs’ chief lawyer in the United States.

According to James Craig, Chevron’s spokesperson, the documents Prieto did not want to be known, reveal that Stratus (Boulder, Colorado), the consulting firm that worked for the plaintiffs, “secretly wrote the allegedly independent report of expert Richard Cabrera.”

The expert recommended that the Company should pay US $27 billion in damages for the environmental contamination left in Ecuador.

A judge in Lago Agrio, where the case is being heard against the Company, would have asked Cabrera to prepare this report.

Craig told EFE that the email reveals the “illegal conduct” of the plaintiffs’ lawyers and the “fraud” committed against Chevron.

On the other hand, Pablo Fajardo, the plaintiffs’ chief lawyer in Ecuador, in a telephone interview highlighted that “there is nothing wrong” in the behavior of the lawyers.

He explained that Prieto’s email “is an internal analysis of what would happen if this information reached Chevron’s hands”, and accused the company of “manipulating” data.

He also affirmed that Prieto spoke of the possibility of going to jail because Chevron could present claims against the lawyers in Ecuador, claiming illegal actions, something that the company in fact did afterwards.

Fajardo acknowledged that “a large portion of the Cabrera report” was written by Stratus, but affirmed that there were no irregularities because the same Court would have requested the parties to provide the expert with information on the case.

“We were obliged to cooperate” with him, said Fajardo, who instead pointed out that Chevron refused to provide any information to the expert.

Prieto’s email was made public as part of some 100,000 documents that Donzinger has had to turn over to a New York judge, where Chevron has opened a new case against the plaintiffs.

In his message Prieto affirms: “We cannot accept that the correspondence and the e.mails between Stratus and Juampa (Juan Pablo Saenz, another lawyer) and myself, be made public.”

He also points out that the lawyers will request an Ecuadorian judge to ask the US judge not to reveal such correspondence, because this “would affect their fundamental rights.”

According to Chevron, the plaintiffs presented this claim before the Provincial Court of Sucumbíos, which so far has not responded.

Meanwhile, in well “Lago 20” formerly operated by Texaco, the company bought by Chevron, half of the 40 plaintiffs today registered their signatures before a Notary Public, in response to a report filed by the company claiming these were false.

“We are proving the authenticity of these signatures”, said to EFE Hugo Camacho, President of the Pimampiro community, where there are some dozen wells and crude oil pits formerly operated by Texaco.

The community leader complained that Texaco “caused environmental damages” when it operated in Ecuador (1964-1990).

On the other hand, Craig described this ceremony as “a media circus” and stressed that “they have to explain to the Court the problem with the signatures”. At the same time he ratified that the company continues pursuing its forensic expert report prepared by an expert hired by Chevron.

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