[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, on Tuesday upheld [judgment, PDF, in Spanish] a multi-billion dollar fine against Chevron [corporate website] for polluting the Amazon Jungle in the 1980s. The USD $18 billion fine, one of the largest in the history of environmental contamination suits, was originally set at $8.6 billion [JURIST report] but was more than doubled for Chevron’s refusal to pay “moral reparations” [BBC report] to the Ecuadorian government, as required by the original ruling [Reuters report]. As Chevron officials condemn [press release] the decision as fraudulent, unenforceable and corrupted by the politicization of Ecuador’s judiciary, the corporation is pursuing private recourse through Permanent Court of Arbitration [official website] in The Hague. The corporation is also calling for a criminal investigation [press release] into the judge and plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case. Meanwhile, the Amazon Defense Coalition [advocacy website], plaintiffs in the suit, have responded that the judgment is a reaffirmation of how Chevron’s greed and criminal misconduct [press release] in dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the river has led to death and disease.
Damages were initially awarded in February by the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios which found that Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, polluted large areas of the country’s rain forest. That month, Chevron filed a US lawsuit against plaintiffs’ lawyers and consultants in the case, claiming that plaintiffs were attempting to extort Chevron. The damages were then enjoined by a New York in March, but the injunction was later overturned [JURIST reports] by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website]. In July, the Second Circuit upheld [LAT report] a May ruling [NYT report] by the Southern District of New York ordering filmmaker Joe Berlinger to turn over to Chevron certain outtakes from his 2009 documentary Crude [film website]. Chevron claims the outtakes show plaintiffs’ lawyers discussing illegal and unethical tactics, including ghost-writing a court appointed expert’s report, intimidating a judge and colluding with government officials. Chevron claims that a 1995 cleanup agreement between Ecuador and Texaco, completed in 1998 at a cost of $40 million, absolves Chevron of all liability.