by Tim Pearce
The Supreme Court of Gibraltar awarded the oil company Chevron $38 million Friday for damages related to charges alleging the company contaminated the Amazon region of Ecuador.
An Ecuador court issued an $18 billion judgment against Chevron in February 2011 for environmental and social harm the company allegedly caused to the Amazon. The amount was later reduced to $9.5 billion, but a U.S. district court in New York nullified the judgment due to fraudulent and illegal activities by Steven Donziger, the lead American lawyer behind the lawsuit, according to the district court ruling.
Donziger had set up a company in Gibraltar, Amazonia Recovery Ltd., through which to funnel the funds he and others thought they would win from the Chevron case. The Gibraltar court rendered judgment on Donziger’s associates and Amazonia while issuing a permanent injunction between them and the case, stopping them from participating any further.
“In issuing this decision, the Supreme Court is holding the perpetrators of this fraudulent enterprise accountable for their actions,” Chevron Vice President and general counsel R. Hewitt Pate said in a statement. “In courtrooms around the world, this fraudulent scheme against Chevron Corporation continues to implode.”
The Gibraltar court’s decision follows a similar one in Dec. 2015 when the court awarded Chevron $28 billion in damages from Donziger and Amazonia and issued an injunction between them and the case. Pablo Fajardo, Luis Yanza and Ermel Chavez – Donziger’s partners in the scheme – tried to keep the pressure on Chevron by working through the company. They ignored the first judgment, resulting in the court leveling a new, higher judgment against them and the Amazonia.
The New York district court found that while Donziger had initiated the case with good intentions, he corrupted the process through telling half-truths, outright lies, and using fake evidence and witnesses.
“If ever there were a case warranting equitable relief with respect to a judgment procured by fraud, this is it,” the district court ruling said.
Oil companies are under increasing pressure in the United States as various states, cities, and municipalities attempt to hold select companies responsible for damage from natural disasters. The lawsuits claim the oil companies are contributing to climate change, in turn contributing to more severe damage from weather events such at hurricanes and storms.
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