BUENOS AIRES -- An Argentine appeals court has upheld a move by Buenos Aires to freeze $19 billion in Chevron (IW 1000/7) assets at the request of Ecuador, which blames the oil giant for environmental damage in the Amazon.

Court documents showed that the ruling issued on Tuesday rejected Chevron's position that Argentina lacked jurisdiction to take a side in the matter. The appeals court petition was filed by two Chevron subsidiaries operating in Argentina.

An Argentine court in November froze Chevron Corporation's assets at the request of Quito, where Chevron was ordered to pay $19 billion for environmental damage, a lawyer in the case said.

The $19 billion judgment is equivalent to the value of Chevron's entire holdings in Argentina, and a company official said here recently that an adverse ruling could cause it to shut down its entire operation here.

"If the freeze is upheld... it would affect all of Chevron's activity in Argentina," said Ricardo Aguirre, the manager for planning and commercial operations at Chevron in Argentina.

"There will be no future for this company in this country, that is clear," Aguirre said.

The U.S. Supreme Court in October declined a request from Chevron to intervene in the case and refused to block the massive fine sought by Ecuador.

The Ecuadoran complaint stemmed from years of unchecked pollution in the Amazon attributed to Texaco Petroleum, which Chevron acquired in 2001.

Texaco polluted large areas of Ecuador's Amazon jungle when it operated in the region from 1964 to 1990, a decade before being acquired by Chevron, according to indigenous groups and local farmers.

After years of litigation, an Ecuadoran court in February 2011 ordered Chevron to pay the massive fine.

Chevron has accused the Ecuadoran judge who ruled on the case of fraud and breach of trust.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013