Friday, October 30, 2009

The Chevron Secret Recordings Case Continues

An American whose secret recordings have placed him at the center of a $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador is a convicted drug trafficker, records show, throwing another complication into a case already tainted by accusations of bribery and espionage.

The lawsuit pits Ecuadorean peasants against Chevron over oil pollution in the Amazon and has been a major headache for the company for nearly a decade, producing a saga that underscores many of the hazards and ethical challenges of oil companies working in the developing world.

The company appeared to gain the upper hand in August when it revealed
video recordings — captured on watches and pens implanted with bugging devices — that suggested a bribery scheme involving Ecuadorean officials, and possibly even the judge hearing the case.

But the company was put on the defensive again on Thursday, after lawyers for the peasants revealed that one of two men who made the tapes was a convicted felon. Court and other records provided by the plaintiffs show that Wayne Hansen, the American who helped make the recordings, was convicted of conspiring to traffic 275,000 pounds of marijuana from Colombia to the United States in 1986. He also was sued successfully in 2005 by a woman who accused him of unleashing his two pit bulls to attack her and her dog...

“It’s another blockbuster development in a case that never runs short of them,” said Ralph G. Steinhardt, a professor at George Washington University Law School...

Chevron has said it had
no involvement in the videotaping, and company spokesmen have said Mr. Hansen was never their point of contact. “We’ve had no association with this guy,” said Donald Campbell, a Chevron spokesman. (more) (the videos)