The plaintiffs’ lawyers blackmailed the judge presiding over the Lago Agrio trial to cancel the court-ordered site inspections plaintiffs’ experts Dave Russell and Dr. Calmbacher condemned. Their solution was to force the court, by threatening the judge with a sexual harassment complaint, to appoint an “independent” global damages expert, who would work covertly for them.
On June 13, 2007, Richard Stalin Cabrera Vega (Cabrera) was officially sworn in as the global damages expert. The Lago Agrio court required Cabrera to “perform his duties … with complete impartiality and independence vis-á-vis the parties.” But privately, Cabrera—and his official conclusions—had already been predetermined and paid for by the plaintiffs’ lawyers. The plaintiffs’ lawyers opened a “secret” bank account to pay at least $100,000 bribes and hush money to Cabrera. These secret payments were in addition to the $263,000 plaintiffs acknowledged paying Cabrera for the work he was supposed to do independently for the court, but which plaintiffs were secretly doing for him.
Former co-counsel and litigation funder Joseph Kohn told the plaintiffs that he was “shocked by recent disclosures concerning potentially improper and unethical (943 KB), if not illegal, contacts with the court-appointed expert.” The plaintiffs’ Ecuadorian lawyers admitted in an email that if evidence of their collusion and fraud was exposed, “all of us, your attorneys, might go to jail.”
But the plaintiffs’ lawyers doubled-down on the fraud, seeking, as stated by a plaintiffs’ lawyer at Patton Boggs, to “cleanse” (350 KB) the Cabrera Report by obtaining reports from new experts, who in less than a month—without even visiting Ecuador—repackaged the fraudulent Cabrera Report and increased the damages claim by another $86 billion. Several federal courts have found this “cleansing” operation to be evidence of additional fraud.
In January 2013, it was revealed that Burford Capital, one of the largest financial backers of the plaintiffs, accused (352 KB) the plaintiffs’ lawyers of fraud and other misconduct in connection with their pursuit of their case. On April 17, 2013, Burford provided a sworn declaration outlining the firm’s knowledge of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ misconduct and testifying that the proceeding is irredeemably tainted by fraud. Christopher Bogart, Burford’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Burford stands by its clients in the face of aggressive litigation tactics by their opponents, but Burford does not sit still for being deceived or defrauded and has no interest in profiting from such conduct.”
As more supporters began abandoning the fraudulent lawsuit, another key member of Donziger’s team came forward with information on how Cabrera was selected by the plaintiffs’ lawyers: Fernando Reyes, an Ecuadorian petroleum and environmental engineer who served as a consultant to Donziger, submitted a sworn declaration (164 KB) describing the process by which the plaintiffs’ lawyers sought out someone who, as Donziger put it, would “totally play ball with us and let us take the lead while projecting the image that he is working for the court.” Reyes’ declaration provides an eyewitness account as to how the plaintiffs’ lawyers have sought to manipulate the trial since its infancy, deceived the court, corrupted the trial process and engaged in the development of a fraudulent “independent” report.