MANHATTAN (CN) - Testimony from an Ecuadorean judge that he rigged an environmental trial against Chevron has not helped the oil giant unfreeze its Argentinian assets.
In 2011, an Ecuadorean court ordered Chevron to pay an indigenous group $19 billion for oil contamination that it attributed to the Texaco subsidiary.
Chevron called the judgment the product of bribery, extortion and corruption on the part of the lawyers for the Ecuadoreans. The company filed racketeering claims in the Southern District of New York and collected evidence from discovery actions in other jurisdictions across the United States.
Litigation swelled across three continents with international arbitration in Europe, appeals in Ecuador and collections actions in Canada, Brazil and Argentina.
Chevron has no assets in Ecuador for the rainforest residents to collect there.
Back in New York, Chevron submitted an affidavit from an Ecuadorean judge as the missing piece to its extortion puzzle.
Alberto Guerra, the first judge in Ecuador to hear the case, told the New York court that lawyers for the rainforest residents paid him to ghostwrite the verdict against Chevron for his successor, Judge Nicolas Zambrano.
Chevron supplemented his statement with two cryptic emails between lawyers for the Ecuadoreans. They also have bank records that allegedly corroborate Guerra's tale.
In late 2009, lawyers for the rainforest residents sent two internal emails referring to paying a "puppeteer," each dated within a one or two days of a $1,000 cash deposit into Guerra's bank account.
Chevron spokesperson Kent Robertson told Courthouse News that the company tried to learn the identity of the depositor by looking up an Ecuadorean identification number, known as a cedula number, on the deposit slip.
Unlike a Social Security number, a cedula number is publicly recorded and searchable in Ecuador, Robertson said.
Though he said the cedula numbers on two slips were "fakes," Chevron purportedly linked one of their Ecuadorean adversaries to deposit slips for two other $1,000 payments earlier that year.
The last four cedula digits on these slips correspond with Ximena Centeno, whose name appears on administrative support for the Ecuadoreans on a list marked "Confidential," Robertson said.
Chevron gained access to the once-privileged document during discovery.
The name "Ximena" is also signed on the second deposit slip.
Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the Ecuadoreans, denied the allegation and cast doubt on Chevron's detective work.
"First, no one working on behalf of the Ecuadoreans deposited money in Guerra's bank account. Period," she said. "Second, Ximena Centeno is not a lawyer. She worked for a few months as an assistant in the Quito office. Third, Ximena is a relatively common name in Ecuador."
Hinton also tried to discredit Guerra by pointing to Ecuadorean news reports that say he wrongly freed more than 30 criminals, including drug traffickers.
His testimony smacks of a "Nixon-style dirty tricks campaign" financed by Chevron, Hinton said.