In a blockbuster development, Ecuador Judge Juan Nunez, the key legal figure in the Chevron Ecuador environmental damage case, is captured in a video shown here explaining that he plans to rule against the oil giant and for an award of $27 billion "more or less". The judge explains that the verdict will happen and that Chevron will be blocked from filing an appeal of his ruling. In that segment of the video, the Judge explains he's only there to talk about the verdict, not about "the other stuff" which refers to a $3 million payoff request. Later in the video its implied that Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa will benefit from the bribe amount.
On video today I talked to Chevron Media Relations representative Sean Covey about the video and Chevron's investigation.
In the video Judge Nunez, Aulo Gelio ServioTulio Avila ("Avila"), and Pablo Almeida and are talking with two gentleman, Wayne Hansen and Diego Borja who are environmental remediation contractors and in the Judge's chamber in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. Hansen and Borja have pen-installed camcorders in their shirt pockets. Diego Borja has worked for Chevron before, Hansen has not, according to Chevron.
Judge Nunez (on the left)
The idea of the meeting was for the Judge and his political associates to be paid by the environmental company for business that would come to them as a result of the Judge's planned verdict. Here's what the Judge said from the video and the Amazonpost website:
Núñez: “Any other questions for me as a judge?”
Hansen: “Oh no, I, I know clearly how it is, you say, Chevron is the guilty party?”
Núñez: “Yes Sir.”
Hansen: “And the, the, the act (decision) is October or November of this year?”
Núñez: “Yes Sir.”
Hansen: “And it’s….?”
Núñez: “No later than January.”
Hansen: “January 2010. And the money is twenty-seven (billion dollars)?”
Núñez: “It might be less, and it might be more.”
The Judge says "I have nothing to do with that other part" which is not explained in full but Garcia below fills in "the blanks" later, explaining that the Judge will be paid part of $3 million from the consulants.
The second part of the video has an operative Patricio Garcia (photo from the Amazonpost website) who's reportedly a member of Ecuador's ruling party talking about how the $3 million would be delivered and transfered. This is what was said by Garcia:
Borja: “OK. Of the three million … one million is for the judge?”
Borja: “One million for the presidency…?”
Borja: “And one million for the plaintiffs?”
Garcia: “Yes, that’s right.”
Borja: “But, Loco, for the plaintiffs, who gets the money? Fajardo?”
Garcia: “No. The thing is, we’re going to handle it here.”
Borja: “You mean Alianza PAIS would receive the payment here?”
Here's the 30 minute version of the video (the full two hour version is here):
But there's more to this video than what's reported in the press thus far. The focus here is on President Rafael Correa, who's office is named by Patricio Garcia as a beneficiary of the planned bribe money as is "his sister" as stated in the video above. As of this writing Correa has not issued a statement, but his reputation has already come under attack.
The second part of the video was filmed at Alianza PAIS (which means "Proud and Sovereign Fatherland" according to the Wikepedia listing) Offices June 22, 2009. PAIS is a political movement led by President Correa. Who Patricio Garcia is beyond his appearance in this video and his role in PAIS is still basically unknown as of this writing.
Garcia says that the President's sister Pierina will be helpful (presumably in making sure that the businessmen get their piece of the planned $27 billion pie) and will meet with "The Gringo" (that's Hansen). I checked and "Prierina" is indeed described here as "Pierina Correa, the president's sister and an Alianza País leader in Guayas province". That confirms my assertion that Garcia is tied to the President and his family as he states in the video.
Chevron wants Nunez taken off the case
The implication here is that as Chevron Media Relations representative Sean Corney said in my video above, Chevron wants Nunez taken off the environmental damage case. But given that Chevron has informed the U.S. Department of Justice, the revalation could have deeper implications.
It could cost the country its Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) status, which was just renewed in June of this year. Whatever the case, this news sends a clear message that doing business in Ecuador is not the "clean" experience it should be. Until now, blogs have reported the problems of corruption in Ecuador and with respect to President Correa's involvement in the Chevron case, but now we have visible evidence to back those claims.
The news also forever destroys the claim made by Ecuador lawsuit legal advisor Steve Donziger and others who say that the lawsuit against Chevron has nothing to do with the Ecuadorian Government and is brought by citizens of the Amazon. But Correa has appeared with Donziger in public and has been interviewed about the case.
One can see that the bribe money's not going anywhere near those groups of people Donziger claims to represent; the political party PAIS would get it and "handle it" as Garcia said in the video. The question is, did Donziger or his associates in Ecuador and America know about this bribe plan? Was he to be one of the plaitiffs that would get the bribe money? In the Amazon Defense Coalition statement today, he does not address the possibility that he may be involved, instead he said "As the facts come out it's going to backfire heavily on Chevron."
Amazon Defense Coalition defends Judge Nunez
Karen Hinton of the Amazon Defense Coalition told Reuters that the video shows Judge Nunez resisting the bribery matter. (This is Hinton's full statement.) In point of fact, the video shows the judge saying that he's speaking in the role of Judge and "does not know about that other matter" which is a way of saying he does know but does not want it to be officially said that he does know. It's called "plausible deniability ."
Full video transcripts:
Meeting 1 Transcript (228 KB)
Meeting 2 Transcript (195 KB)
Meeting 3 Transcript (218 KB)
Meeting 4 Transcript (217 KB)