In what is being described as "smoking gun evidence" of Chevron's complete guilt and corruption in the case of an oil spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon, internal videos leaked to an environmental watchdog show company technicians finding and then mocking the extensive oil contamination in areas that the oil giant told courts had been restored.
A Chevron whistleblower reportedly sent "dozens of DVDs" to U.S.-based Amazon Watch with a handwritten note stating: "I hope this is useful for you in your trial against Texaco/Chevron. [signed] A Friend from Chevron."
The videos were all titled "pre-inspection" with dates and places of the former oil production sites where judicially-supervised inspections were set to take place. The footage was recorded by Chevron during an earlier visit to the site to determine where clean samples could be taken.
According to Amazon Watch's description of the tapes:
Chevron employees and consultants can be heard joking about clearly visible pollution in soil samples being pulled out of the ground from waste pits that Chevron testified before both U.S. and Ecuadorian courts had been remediated in the mid-1990s.
In a March 2005 video, a Chevron employee, named Rene, taunts a company consultant, named Dave, at well site Shushufindi 21: "... you keep finding oil in places where it shouldn't have been.... Nice job, Dave. Give you one simple task: Don't find petroleum."
"This is smoking gun evidence that shows Chevron hands are dirty—first for contaminating the region, and then for manipulating and hiding critical evidence," said Paul Paz y Miño, Amazon Watch's director of outreach.
In February 2011, an Ecuadorian court found the oil giant guilty and ordered Chevron to pay $8 billion in environmental damages, a ruling the company called "illegitimate" and vowed to fight. In 2014, a U.S. federal court judge sided with Chevron and threw out that ruling, arguing that it was obtained through "corrupt means." On April 20, a federal appellate court in Manhattan will hear oral argument in the appeal of those charges.
"While its technicians were engaging in fraud in the field, Chevron's management team was launching a campaign to demonize the Ecuadorians and their lawyers as a way to distract attention from the company's reckless misconduct," Paz y Miño added.
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Chevron never turned over any of the secret videos to the Ecuador court conducting the trial. Nor did the company submit its pre-inspection sampling results to the court.
In a blog post on Wednesday, Amazon Watch Ecuador program coordinator Kevin Koenig explains how, after receiving the tapes, his organization turned them over to the legal team representing the affected Indigenous and farmer communities.
"The videos are a true treasure trove of Chevron misdeeds and corporate malfeasance," he writes. "And, ironically, Chevron itself proved their authenticity."
When the plaintiffs' lawyers tried to use the videos in court to cross-examine a Chevron "scientist", the company objected.
A letter sent by Chevron's legal firm Gibson Dunn to counsel for the communities states, "These videos are Chevron's property, and are confidential documents and/or protected litigation work product. Chevron demands that you provide detailed information about how your firm acquired these videos and your actions with respect to them... In addition to providing this information, Chevron demands that you promptly return the improperly obtained videos and all copies of them by sending them to my attention at the above address."
Chevron is now free to view them on YouTube.
"These explosive videos confirm what the Ecuadorian Supreme Court has found after reviewing the evidence: that Chevron has lied for years about its pollution problem in Ecuador," Koenig added.
Chevron has admitted to dumping nearly 16 billion gallons of toxic oil drilling wastewater into rivers and streams relied upon by thousands of people for drinking, bathing, and fishing. The company also abandoned hundreds of unlined, open waste pits filled with crude, sludge, and oil drilling chemicals throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon.