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Fortune – Key Chevron witness describes alleged corruption in Ecuadorian courts

Date: Oct 28, 2013

A key witness in Chevron’s racketeering trial against environmental lawyer Steven Donziger, who won a $19 billion judgment against the oil giant in Lago Agrio, Ecuador in 2011, has testified to personal knowledge of corruption in the Ecuadorian courts stretching back decades.

“As a practicing attorney [between 1982 and 1995],” ex-judge Alberto Guerra Bastidas, a witness for Chevron, testified last week, “I on occasion bribed judges, including judges on the nation’s highest courts. And as a judge [from 1995 to 2008], I occasionally accepted bribes from litigants.” On cross-examination he estimated that he had participated in ten to 20 such bribes as an attorney, and ten to 20 more as a judge.

“Based on my own personal knowledge,” Guerra continued, “I know that … most other judges who served on the provincial court of SucumbĂ­os” — the rural, jungle province on Ecuador’s eastern border with Colombia, where the judgment against Chevron arose — “accepted bribes from litigants and attorneys.” He knew this, he said, both from conversations with those judges and from having, on some occasions, shared bribes with them while serving on three-judge appellate panels.