(CN) – The Ecuadorean government hopes to fight allegations at The Hague that its judiciary fraudulently entered an $18 billion judgment against Chevron by accessing testimony from the oil company’s consultants.
On Feb. 14, dozens of indigenous Ecuadorean farmers convinced a provincial court in the Amazonian region of Lago Agrio that Chevron’s predecessor Texaco poisoned tribal lands and sparked cancer clusters with decades of drilling.
According to the terms of the $18.2 billion verdict, $1.4 billion would be used to build a new health care infrastructure in Lago Agrio, and an additional $800 million would be earmarked for cancer treatment.
Claiming that the case ignores the role of Ecuador’s state-owned drilling company, Petroecuador, Chevron has denies liability and retained the consulting firm Exponent to challenge the health claims.
Exponent epidemiologist Michael A. Kelsh wrote multiple reports refuting the claims of the independent court-appointed expert Richard Cabrera, a controversial figure who Chevron said signed a report ghostwritten by the Ecuadorean plaintiffs.
Last week, the Ecuadorean government and civil attorney general, known as a procurador, defended the time and attention their judiciary devoted to the case in a five-page brief asking a U.S. District Court in California to allow them to subpoena Exponent’s and Kelsh’s records.
“Indeed, for the last eight years, the environmental proceedings have continued unabated in Lago Agrio and have included scores of judicial site inspections, expert analyses, thousands of laboratory results, and a record in excess of 200,000 pages,” the brief states.
Chevron deemed Ecuador in breach of its treaty 18 months before the provincial Lago Agrio court ruled against it – a move that Ecuador claims was “an effort either to shut down the environmental case altogether or otherwise to obtain findings that it might use in defense of any potential enforcement action against Chevron.”
In February, Chevron sued the indigenous Lago Agrio plaintiffs, along with their attorneys and consultants, in a federal anti-racketeering suit seeking to invalidate the multibillion dollar judgment.
A month later, the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan gave final permission for Chevron to pursue international arbitration at The Hague, through the Bilateral Investment Treaty between the United States and Ecuador.
The Lago Agrio plaintiffs, who are not a party to The Hague arbitration, are slated to defend their judgment at a separate trial in the Southern District of New York this November.