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Cablegate: Goe Response to Chevron Tapes

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0803
INFO RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 4588
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UNCLAS QUITO 000795

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS

FOR WHA/AND

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EPET PREL EINV EC
SUBJECT: GOE RESPONSE TO CHEVRON TAPES

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The GOE has responded in a fractured way to
Chevron's release on August 31 of tapes alleging a $3 million
bribery scheme involving the presiding judge in its pending
environmental case in Ecuador. The only official GOE response so
far has been a statement released by the President's Legal Secretary
General, Alexis Mera, who was himself mentioned in the tapes.
Local press has reported that Ecuador's Prosecutor General and
Attorney General are looking into the matter. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On August 31, Chevron released video recordings which it
claims implicate in a $3 million bribery scheme the judge who is
presiding over a lawsuit it has pending in Ecuadorian courts.
Plaintiffs in the case, which has been pending since 1993, represent
a number of Ecuadorian indigenous tribes and communities in
Ecuador's Amazon region, who claim environmental mismanagement of a
GOE/Texaco petroleum consortium from 1964-1992.

3. (U) The tapes were recorded clandestinely by Diego Borja, an
Ecuadorian who had performed work for Chevron as a logistics
contractor, and Wayne Hansen, a U.S. citizen with no ties to
Chevron. The tapes were recorded at four meetings that were
conducted between May 11 and June 22 of this year. Participants in
the meetings included the contractors, who were seeking
environmental remediation work, several people claiming to represent
the GOE or ruling party Alianza PAIS political party, and Judge Juan
Nunez. The meetings purportedly took place at Alianza PAIS offices
in Quito, the Holiday Inn Quito, and in the judge's chambers in Lago
Agrio. The $3 million was supposedly to be split between Judge
Nunez, representatives of the Ecuadorian Presidency, the plaintiffs,
and allegedly the President's sister Pierina. The tapes and
transcripts are available for viewing on Chevron's website
www.chevron.com.

4. (SBU) Chevron Managing Counsel Jaime Varela and Ricarda Veiga
called Ambassador August 31 to provide Embassy with a heads up and
background on release of the videos. Chevron confirmed that it had
not sought the tapes nor had it provided remuneration to the
contractors for the tapes. Veiga also said Chevron had not verified
the identity or government affiliation of those persons purporting
to represent the GOE in the meetings. According to Veiga, in
addition to Ecuador's Prosecutor General, Chevron sent letters and
tapes to Ecuador's Attorney General, DR. Diego Garcia Carrion;
Ecuador's Ambassador to the U.S.; Ambassador Hodges; and to the U.S.
DOJ. According to Veiga, Chevron plans to files motions to remove
the judge from the case and annul any of his previous rulings, as
well as renew its motion to dismiss the case.

5. (SBU) The early GOE response to Chevron's disclosure has been
fractured. The only official response was a statement released by
the President's Legal Secretary General, Alexis Mera, who was
himself mentioned in the tapes. Mera pointed out that Chevron's
disclosure was based on illicitly obtained recordings and called it
a disgraceful attempt to influence the outcome of the judicial
proceeding. However, most of his statement was devoted to rejecting
involvement by the GOE. Mera emphasized that the GOE was not a
party to the lawsuit and claimed that it has not interjected itself
in any way into the legal process. On the other hand, news reports
indicate that Ecuador's Prosecutor General, Washington Pesantez,
would be calling those alleged to be involved to explain.


HODGES

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