Crude contaminates the Aguarico 4 oil pit, an open pool abandoned by Texaco after 6 years of production and never remediated. (Courtesy Caroline Bennett/Amazon Watch)

Chevron Assets Frozen in Argentina as Part of Amazonian Lawsuit

Rick Kearns
12/1/12

 

Chevron has not yet paid any of the massive fine levied against it in Ecuador so the plaintiffs in that case have taken their fight to the international stage.

Indigenous Ecuadoreans and others seeking to collect the $19 billion judgment against Chevron have followed through with their plans to recoup the money in other countries where the oil giant operates.

In 2011, after years of legal actions an Ecuadorean Court found Chevron liable for massive contamination of the country's northern Amazonian region, home to 30,000 indigenous peoples and farmers. The Court imposed an $18.2 billion fine against the company and then increased it to $19 billion due to Chevron's refusal to comply with, among things, the order to make a public apology.

On November 7, Judge Elcuj Miranda of the Commercial Court of Justice in Buenos Aries, Argentina froze the close to $2 billion worth of assets that Chevron holds in the South American nation; the plaintiffs are pursuing a similar strategy in Brazil and, as of Thursday, November 28, they sought a judicial order in Ontario, Canada to obtain Chevron assets in that country.

Funds covered by the November 7th freeze include 100 percent of Chevron's capital in Argentina, 100 percent of dividends, all of Chevron's stake in pipeline operator Oleoductos del Valle SA, 40 percent of Chevron's oil sales to Argentine refineries, and 40 percent of the money Chevron has deposited in Argentine banks, stated attorney Enrique Bruchou, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in Argentina.

The rainforest communities have been able to file this suit in Buenos Aires as Argentina is one of the signatories, along with Ecuador, to the Inter-American Convention on the Execution of Preventative Measures. That treaty includes a provision to freeze assets of a defendant that fails to abide by the law and refuse to pay a judgment in the respective country. (The other countries that signed and ratified the treaty were Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Guatemala and Uruguay.)

In response to Judge Miranda's order, on November 12 Chevron went to a civil court in Buenos Aires seeking to revoke the freeze order and then on November 29th the company took out full-page ads in the largest newspapers in Argentina.

The ads asserted that the Ecuadorean judgment was fraudulent and that, "we are seeking the lifting of this embargo as soon as possible, to avoid its negative impacts on the country, the government, the company, and the energy future of Argentina."

However the plaintiffs lead Ecuadorean attorney, Pablo Fajardo, was quick to criticize the press blitz.

“Now that the law has again caught up with Chevron in Argentina, the company is buying newspaper advertisements to improperly pressure the court system to rule in its favor. Argentina is too strong a country to fall for Chevron’s game of tricks.”

In January of this year, Fajardo asserted that he and the legal team would be seeking an international strategy:

“We are going to initiate the actions of execution in the different continents and countries where Chevron is active, and we are going to the different courts throughout the world to urge that Chevron pay for the crimes they committed in the Amazon.”

As of press time there were no further developments in Argentina and according to press reports, on Friday, November 30th, Canadian Superior Court Justice David Brown said he probably would not rule on the case until February, after the resolution of Chevron's appeal to Ecuador's Constitutional Court.

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