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Forensics Reveal Ghost-Written Ruling against Chevron in Ecuador

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Jun 9, 2015, 11:08 am
Computer experts have concluded that Judge Nicolás Zambrano did not write his billion-dollar ruling against oil giant Chevron.
Computer experts have concluded that Judge Nicolás Zambrano did not write his billion-dollar ruling against oil giant Chevron. (La Hora)

EspañolA new twist has emerged in the years-long legal battle between Ecuador and Chevron over pollution in the environs of the Lago Agrio oil field. The oil giant has alleged that a ruling which ordered it to pay US$9.5 billion in compensation was not written by presiding Judge Nicolás Zambrano, but instead by a legal team allied with President Rafael Correa.

Two IT experts, representing both the plaintiff and the defendant, analyzed two hard drives from Zambrano’s computers, and agreed that the content of the ruling closely mirrored information held by Steven Donziger, the US lawyer who defended Ecuador.

“It does not matter what Donziger and the few people that still support him claim before the public, they won’t be able to hide the facts,” Chevron stated in a press release.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) made the two briefs available to the public on May 8, while the report by the expert representing Ecuador, Cristopher Racich, was previously leaked in February.

“The Ecuadorian government and the plaintiff’s legal team leaked the report as part of a media strategy,” Chevron spokesman James Craig said. “This explains the attitude of the Ecuadorian government before the arbitration court rulings,” he added in reference to the request from the Hague-based court to keep the file confidential.

Racich, who authored Ecuador’s computer forensic report, confirmed that the judge’s ruling was part of a fraud, according to Chevron sources.

While both experts agree on the overall conclusion that the judge did not write the controversial judgement himself, Chevron’s computer expert, Spencer Lynch, says Racich “remains silent” on several questions in his report. Lynch says, for example, that the Ecuadorian does not provide an explanation as to how the judge prepared the statistics featured in his ruling “with almost no use of Microsoft Excel.”


“According to a US Federal Court, Donziger committed fraud and racketeering in Ecuador’s case against Chevron.”

Fraud and Corruption Everywhere

However, both experts found several paragraphs within Zambrano’s ruling had been copied verbatim from statements written by Donziger’s legal team that were never presented to the court. Racich went as far as to say these statements and certain sections of the ruling were “identical.”

The forensic reports filed with the PCA fall in line with those already presented to a federal court in New York, in a case in which US Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in favor of Chevron.

“The Court finds that Zambrano did not write the Judgment issued under his name. He was astonishingly unfamiliar with important aspects of its contents,” Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in his March 2014 ruling.

Craig told the PanAm Post that Kaplan’s ruling confirms the trial in Ecuador presided over by Zambrano was “a product of fraud and corruption” and that “the Ecuadorian government was involved, supporting the entire process.”

“The judge ruled that the Ecuadorian judgement is not enforceable on US soil,” the Chevron spokesman added.

Craig further clarified that Zambrano had previously stated in US court that he had dictated his 188-page ruling to his 18-year-old secretary, who wrote it on the judge’s computer.

“The ruling was full of technical information and the court orders (written before the final ruling) were actually written by another judge, Judge Guerra.”

But the corruption scheme goes deeper, he says. Craig claims Judge Guerra negotiated with Donziger at a bar in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, called Honey & Honey. “[Guerra] in the end felt betrayed and decided to tell all,” Craig says.

The spokesman explains that the decision to take Chevron’s case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration came when the company first took notice of the corruption in the Ecuadorian courts that kept them from having a fair trial.

While there is no deadline set for the PCA to render its final decision, the company does not expect a ruling before 2016.

Translated by Adam Dubove.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.