Chevron's legal situation gets stickier
Oil company provided tapes made by a drug trafficker in case against Ecuadorean peasants.
Fri, Oct 30 2009 at 4:10 PM
A recent revelation that a convicted drug trafficker is the source of damaging tapes is the latest complication in an already tainted legal battle between Chevron and Ecuadorean peasants, according to a recent New York Times piece.
The lawsuit pits the people of Ecuador against oil giant Chevron after Texaco (which Chevron acquired) began drilling for oil in the Ecuadorean Amazon 35 years ago, allegedly polluting the land and water with chemical waste and sickening the indigenous people.
The now 17-year-old lawsuit is the subject of the documentary Crude, which chronicles the complex legal fight and focuses on heroes, victims and Chevron representatives, according to an MNN interview with Crude filmmaker Joe Berlinger.
In August, the oil company gained a legal advantage after revealing a video that suggested a bribery scheme involving Ecuadorean officials.
But that advantage didn’t last long — once the Ecuadorian peasants’ lawyers discovered that one of the two men who had made the tapes was convicted on conspiring to traffic 275,000 pounds of marijuana from Columbia to the U.S. back in the mid-'80s.
The man, Wayne Hansen, has also been sued successfully after he purposefully unleashed his two pit bulls to attack a woman and her dog.
“It’s another blockbuster development in a case that never runs short of them,” Ralph G. Steinhardt, a professor at George Washington University Law School, told the Times. “It doesn’t necessarily mean there was no bribery plan, but anything that undermines the credibility of the witness undermines the case of the party that would call that witness.”
However, Hansen’s lawyer disagrees, arguing that it doesn’t matter what Hansen has done; the tapes don’t lie.
According to the Times, the tapes showed an Ecuadorean political go-between working to obtain $3 million in bribes for environmental cleanup contracts to be awarded after the case ended. Though no bribes were actually shown in the tapes, Judge Juan Núñez, who was presiding in the case, did recuse himself after accusations that he was included in the plot.
What's even more suspicious is why Hansen was involved in the taped discussions in the first place. After all, a background check on Hansen found that he didn’t have an engineering license, never finished college and showed no record of being qualified to remediate pollution. So why was he there?
So far Hansen hasn't provided an answer, and Chevron maintains that Hansen’s act of whistleblowing was entirely his own.
In the meantime, as Ecuador’s land remains polluted, Ecuador’s president has offered to not drill for oil in the pristine reserve in exchange for $3 billion, according to a recent MNN article. In return, nations everywhere will experience the pleasure of keeping 410 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, a major boon in the fight against global warming.
As carbon emissions continue to rise and the U.S. struggles to pass climate legislation, this offer is surely just the first of many to come.