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Alberto Guerra, Witness to Corruption: The Full Story

Date: Oct 28, 2015

Former judge Alberto Guerra, in testimony before the Tribunal hearing Chevron’s arbitration claim against the Republic of Ecuador, discussed his personal knowledge of judicial corruption perpetrated by U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger and his associates in the Lago Agrio trial. Guerra, the first judge in that case, was himself involved in the illegalities, including attempts to coordinate with Nicolas Zambrano, the last judge in the Lago Agrio trial, the solicitation of bribes related to the final judgment.

Guerra and Zambrano had an arrangement whereby Guerra ghostwrote rulings in Zambrano’s civil cases in exchange for a monthly payment of approximately $1,000. Guerra ghostwrote about a hundred orders for Zambrano, drafts of which were found on Guerra’s computer. In return, Zambrano paid Guerra various sums of money, mainly in cash and, on occasion, by making a direct deposit into Mr. Guerra’s bank account. Bank statements, deposit slips, and Guerra’s day planner corroborate his testimony. Guerra testified that he usually would give copies of draft orders to Zambrano in person at the Quito airport, or alternatively, he would ship documents and flash drives containing draft orders to Zambrano or a third-party intermediary (per Zambrano’s request) via the state airline TAME. The TAME shipping records corroborate numerous shipments from Guerra to Zambrano and third-party intermediaries.

With respect to the Chevron case in particular, Guerra testified that he reached a separate agreement with the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ representatives, by which they agreed to pay him $1,000 a month in exchange for favorable rulings that would help move the case along. Guerra ghostwrote at least nine orders during Zambrano’s first tenure on the Chevron case, drafts of which were found on Guerra’s computer. Guerra testified in detail about several of these nine drafts, demonstrating his intimate knowledge of the orders. The plaintiffs’ representatives usually paid Guerra in person, in cash, but at times made direct deposits into Guerra’s bank account. Bank statements and deposit slips corroborate Guerra’s testimony.

Regarding the Lago Agrio judgment, Guerra testified that Zambrano asked him to solicit a bribe from the Lago Agrio plaintiffs in exchange for allowing the Plaintiffs to draft the Judgment. Guerra met with Donziger, his Ecuadorian co-counsel Pablo Fajardo and plaintiffs’ representative Luis Yanza at the Honey & Honey restaurant in Quito and made this proposal, which the trio rejected. By the time that Guerra reported the meeting to Zambrano, Zambrano informed him that he had reached a separate deal with the Plaintiffs, pursuant to which the Plaintiffs would write the Judgment in exchange for a $500,000 bribe to be paid out of enforcement proceeds.

Guerra testified that, 2-3 weeks before the issuance of the Lago Agrio judgment, Fajardo gave a draft of the judgment to Zambrano, and they asked Guerra to review and edit the draft judgment. Guerra spent the weekend in Lago Agrio editing and revising the judgment on a computer given to him by Fajardo. As Guerra had some questions, Fajardo gave him a copy of a Memory Aid to assist Guerra in his editing of the Judgment. Guerra found the Memory Aid unhelpful in editing the Judgment. Ultimately, none of Guerra’s edits—about which he testified—was included in the final Judgment.

  • Guerra ghostwrote orders in Zambrano’s civil cases.
    • Guerra testified that he wrote over 100 orders for Zambrano, which were on Guerra’s home computer. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 739:1-13).
  • Zambrano paid Guerra to ghostwrite orders for him in his civil cases.
    • “I’m stating that that was the content of the agreement, and I am indicating that the commitment on my part was to write the rulings for him and to receive from him $1,000 a month on a permanent basis.” (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 629:10-13).
    • “As far as I can recall – as far as I can recall – there is no evidence supporting payments of exactly $1,000, but other amounts, yes. As in the specific case of February 2012, when Judge Zambrano makes a $2,000 deposit to me.” (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 632:23-633:2).
    • Guerra’s bank records corroborate deposits from Zambrano directly into Guerra’s bank account at Banco Pichincha. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 635:25-636:7; Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 878:22-879:20; 887:20-888:18).
    • Guerra testified that Zambrano usually paid him in cash. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 632:7-10; Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 878:16-21; 887:5-12)
  • Guerra and Zambrano shipped ghostwriting material via TAME.
    • Guerra’s TAME shipping records show that he and Zambrano sometimes shipped documents and ghostwritten orders to each other. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 647:10-17)
    • Guerra confirmed that the packages were labeled “documents” because this was in furtherance of a secret, fraudulent scheme. “You will understand that I was not able to go to the TAME office and provide a detailed account saying, okay, I’m sending ruling for the case 2020 of A versus B. The only thing I sad was documents are being sent.” (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 668:25-669:4).
  • Guerra’s hearing testimony regarding the 9 orders in the Chevron case that Guerra ghostwrote for Zambrano makes it clear that Guerra wrote those orders. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 863-877)
    • Guerra would work on an order on a particular day, but he would date the draft a few days later for the benefit of Zambrano so that he would not make a mistake in dating the document once issued. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 868:14-869:6).
    • He explained that he also left blanks in the draft orders for Zambrano to fill out and made notes in the text to make sure that Zambrano would not forget to fill out these blanks. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 871:8-872:21).
    • Guerra also issued rulings at least in part to move the case along in favor of the Plaintiffs. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 876:1-6).
    • “What I can assure you is that all of these documents [nine orders], without any exceptions, including the ones that I worked on Lago Agrio were used by Zambrano for the Chevron case.” (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 665:15-18).
    • “Q. . . . do you reaffirm and confirm that you, Alberto Guerra, wrote all Orders that were found on your computer that you voluntarily provided to Chevron? A. Yes, sir.” (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 877:10-14).
  • The TAME shipping records show that Guerra made a number of shipments to Zambrano—during his tenure on the Chevron case—through an intermediary, Narcisa Leon or Fernando Alban.
    • “I sent these rulings to Zambrano through third parties because that is what he requested me.” (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 657:13-14; Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 886:7-9).
    • Guerra explained that they worked this way because Zambrano was “very careful, very possessive of these things.” (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 881:8-16).
    • Guerra also testified that the first shipment during Zambrano’s first tenure definitely included the Chevron order that he drafted two days prior to that day. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 882:3-883:13).
  • The Lago Agrio Plaintiffs paid Guerra to ghostwrite orders in the Chevron case.
    • Guerra testified that the Plaintiffs paid him $1000 a month to secretly ghostwrite orders to move the case along in the Plaintiffs’ favor. “My agreement with them [the Plaintiffs] was to receive $1,000 a month while I assisted in the preparation of the rulings.” (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 675:17-19; see generally id. at 675-678 regarding Plaintiffs’ payments to Mr. Guerra).
  • On behalf of Zambrano, Guerra met with the Plaintiffs’ legal team at the restaurant Honey & Honey to solicit a bribe in exchange for letting them write the Judgment.
    • Guerra described his meeting with Fajardo, Donziger, and Yanza, on behalf of Zambrano, at the Honey & Honey restaurant in Quito and testified that he offered to let them write the Judgment in exchange for at least $500,000. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 600:7-601:8).
  • Guerra edited a draft judgment prepared by the Lago Agrio Plaintiffs.
    • Guerra testified that Pablo Fajardo gave Zambrano a draft of the Lago Agrio Judgment, which Zambrano in turn asked Guerra to review and edit. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 601:9-17).
    • “Q. Am I correct, sir, that it is your testimony that Judge Zambrano allowed the Lago Agrio Plaintiffs to draft the Lago Agrio Judgment? A. You are entirely correct.” (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 625:1-4).
    • Guerra testified that he edited a draft of the Judgment in Zambrano’s apartment in Lago Agrio, over a weekend in late January / early February 2011 on a computer provided by Fajardo. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 786:15-18)
    • Guerra testified about some of his specific edits to the Judgment and how his edits were not incorporated in the final Judgment. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 841:2-10; 843:11-844:14).
  • Guerra requested and received a memory aid from Pablo Fajardo.
    • Guerra also testified that he asked Fajardo for help on certain issues related to the Lago Agrio proceedings and that Fajardo provided him with a Memory Aid. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 3, Tr. 751:24-752:9, 754:6-12; Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 777:19-778:14).
    • Fajardo provided him with a document to help him edit the Judgment but that turned out to be unhelpful. (Track 2 Hearing Transcript, Day 4, Tr. 779:1-8).