A former Ecuadorian judge has acknowledged his direct involvement in orchestrating a fraudulent judgment against Chevron Corp. in the environmental trial against the company in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. In a sworn declaration filed Jan. 28 in New York federal court, Alberto Guerra, who presided over the case when it was first filed in 2003, revealed he was paid thousands of dollars by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and a subsequent judge, Nicholas Zambrano, for illegally ghostwriting judicial orders issued by Zambrano, and steering the case in the plaintiffs’ favor.
Guerra, who is no longer a judge, attests that the plaintiffs’ lawyers were permitted to draft the $18 billion judgment in their own favor after they promised to pay Zambrano a $500,000 bribe out of the judgment’s enforcement proceeds, and that Guerra then reviewed the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ draft for Zambrano before the judge issued it as his own.
“Another participant in the fraud has now come forward rather than wait to be exposed by others,” said Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel. “Chevron urges additional whistleblowers in Ecuador, the United States, and elsewhere to come forward. It is never too late to tell the truth.”
Guerra’s declaration, which is corroborated by computer, bank, and shipping records, as well as the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ own internal emails, provides a direct account of corruption that has tainted the trial for years. Guerra describes multiple meetings with the plaintiffs’ lawyers and representatives – namely, New York-based Steven Donziger, Pablo Fajardo, and Luis Yanza – to discuss payoffs, kickbacks, and the ghostwriting of court orders favorable to the plaintiffs.
One year after issuing the judgment against Chevron, Zambrano was dismissed from the bench as part of an organized-crime investigation involving the inappropriate release of narcotics traffickers from prison.
Guerra’s account is corroborated by contemporaneous documentary evidence. Sworn statements by several other witnesses also corroborate his account. Guerra’s testimony and corroborating evidence confirm what the extensive overlap between the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ internal files and the judgment itself already supported – that the plaintiffs’ lawyers corrupted the Ecuadorian court and actually wrote the $18 billion judgment against Chevron.
Contemporaneous emails between the plaintiffs’ lawyers and representatives, produced through court-ordered discovery in the U.S., also corroborate Guerra’s declaration. Additional evidence produced by the plaintiffs’ American lawyers also provides corroborating proof that the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ representatives participated in drafting the judgment. Chevron intends to provide all of this evidence to Ecuador’s prosecutor general and to request that his office investigate Zambrano and the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
“Chevron once again calls on Ecuadorian authorities – and authorities wherever these plaintiffs’ lawyers are trying to advance their fraud – to investigate and bring an end to this scheme,” Pate said. “Ecuador should not tolerate American lawyers using Ecuador’s institutions and citizens as puppets.”
In now coming forward, Guerra has agreed to make himself available to appear before other courts, tribunals, and investigators if requested to do so.