Ecuador 31/09/11

Appeals court voids order by New York judge barring the collection of US$18B in Ecuador from Chevron and the verdict against El Universo newspaper for libel is ratified.

On September 19, a federal appeals court vacated an order by a New York judge that barred an US$18 billion judgment in Ecuador against Chevron Inc. for oil pollution in the Amazon.

As Pulsamérica reported in February, an Ecuadorian court ruled against Chevron -the giant US oil extraction company –  ordering it to pay $8.6bn in fines and recovery costs to the victims of oil pollution caused by Texaco’s operations from 1972 to 1990.

In New York, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan had barred collection of the award, after determining that Chevron could prove that lawyers had manipulated a corrupt legal system in Ecuador to secure the judgment.

However, the three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the New York judge could not wield jurisdiction outside the U.S. and ordered Chevron to pay for the damages caused by Texaco -subsidiary of Chevron since 2001- in Lago Agrio, Amazonian province in Ecuador.

Payments are expected to be collected by the first quarter of 2012.

Chevron has long argued that a 1998 agreement Texaco signed with Ecuador after a US$40 million clean up absolves the company of liability and claims Ecuador’s state-run oil company is also responsible for much of the pollution in the area.

In other news, the long-debated lawsuit againt EL universo is ratified in a controversial court session on September 20.

On 20 September a Guayas court ratified a previous verdict which found that Ecuador’s biggest newspaper, El Universo, had committed criminal libel against President Rafael Correa.

The judges Hellen Mantilla and Henry Morán ratified the sentence of three years in prison and a fine of US$ 40 million against the newspaper’s directors and the ex editor, Emilio Palacio, who left the country earlier this month.

A third judge, Guillermo Freire, saved his vote declaring the news company‘no-guilty’ of libel but ratified that Emilio Palacio had committed such crime in this column ‘No más mentiras’ published earlier this year. He also set US$600 000 for indemnisation in favour of Correa.

The decision stirred protests and manifestations in the streets of Quito.

Finally, Byron Moreno, the referee involved in Italy’s contentious elimination from the 2002 South Korea World Cup was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for drug-smuggling into the United States.

Moreno, originally from Ecuador, was arrested last year at Kennedy Airport after arriving on a commercial flight from Quito, Ecuador. Authorities affirmed that bags of heroin were discovered attached to his body during a routine search. He pleaded guilty in January.