By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 17, 2012
A judge in Ecuadorian ordered authorities to confiscate assets that belong to American oil giant Chevron as part of a multimillion conviction for having caused environmental damages in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Judge Wilfrido Erazo, a judge in the province of Sucumbios issued and order against the assets of Chevron and its subsidiaries in Ecuador following a complain made by people who were harmed by the environmental damage caused by Chevron.
The oil company reacted immediately through its Communication Advisor for Latin America who strongly criticized the Court’s decision. James Craig said that both the legal counsel for the plaintiffs and the judge were wrong about the issue and that the ruling was “illegal”.
The same Court of Sucumbios is the same one that ordered Chevron to pay more than 19,000 million last year in what the decision said was compensation for the severe environmental damage caused during the period when Chevron extracted oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon. That period began in 1964 and went up until 1990.
The judge’s order states that the enforcement of the sentence will be a “tax on the entire estate of Chevron” until the entire amount of the judgment is paid in full. JUdge Erazo also called Chevron’s negative to pay “rebellious”.
The embargo of Chevron’s assets includes a fine of more than $ 96 million fine imposed by a court of International Arbitration (ICSID) against the Government of Ecuador, issued after Chevron filed a lawsuit on another matter.
The court’s action also covers the seizure of fuel related products that are sold in the market and that belongs to Chevron and its subsidiaries: Chevron, Texaco, Ursa, Havoline, Doro and others.
The order issued by judge Erazmo means that Chevron’s profits obtained from the sale of these products will be immediately seized by the Ecuadorian government to be deposited in an account that belongs to the Court of Sucumbios. This move will ensure that the oil giant indeed pays its debt.
Besides the decision made by judge Erazo, the plaintiffs’ lawyers also took legal action against Chevron in Canada and Brazil. Last week, the US Supreme Court rejected a request by Chevron to block the sentence issued by the Ecuadorian courts. Now, the plaintiffs legal team believes that it will be possible to obligate Chevron to pay its debt and that no legal impediments will get in the way anywhere in the world.
For his part, the spokesman for Chevron said Erazo’s court order “is not surprising, since the applicants have demonstrated that they can get any order they want from the Court” of Sucumbios. “I know that the plaintiffs’ lawyers have been involved in drafting secret prior orders of the court,” said Craig, but did not say on what occasions. The judge’s action constitutes “a new violation of international law on the part of Ecuador”, said Craig, so Chevron “will seek to combat this illegal action” through “all available legal mechanisms, both inside and outside” the country.
Craig also said that Chevron has “no assets” in Ecuador, and that only the company’s subsidiaries had a “minimum of assets”.
Chevron denies the validity of the Ecuadorian courts’ decision and has refused to pay the penalties imposed by the judge. The company has said that the court has committed “fraud” and that the conviction is part of a plot created by the plaintiffs’ legal team.
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