Ecuadorians File Suit Against Chevron in Canada

Lawsuit aims to freeze Chevron's assets in Canada.

An Ecuadorian community has filed a lawsuit against Chevron Corp. (IW 500/2) in Canada, vowing to go after the U.S. oil firm's assets in third countries in order to seek redress for alleged environmental contamination.

The lawsuit, filed in the Ontario province on Wednesday, aims to freeze Chevron's assets in Canada, where the company has made vast oil sands investments in Alberta and owns a nationwide chain of gas stations.

"For decades Chevron refused to address the contamination that has devastated our ancestral lands," said Pablo Fajardo, the plaintiffs' lawyer. "While Chevron might think it can ignore court orders in Ecuador, it will be impossible to ignore a court order in Canada, where a court may seize the company's assets if necessary to secure payment."

Indigenous groups and local farmers say the U.S. oil firm Texaco contaminated large areas of Ecuador's Amazon jungle when it operated in the region from 1964 to 1990, a decade before being acquired by Chevron.

After years of litigation, an Ecuadorian court in February 2011 ordered the company to pay $18 billion in damages, a ruling upheld by Ecuador's Supreme Court in March of this year.

Chevron denies the allegations, saying the area of the dispute was cleaned up in 1992, and has prevailed in several U.S. courts.

"If the plaintiffs' lawyers believed in the integrity of their judgment, they would be seeking enforcement in the United States -- where Chevron Corporation resides," the company said in a statement Wednesday."In the U.S., however, the plaintiffs' lawyers would be confronted by the fact that seven federal courts have already made findings under the crime/fraud doctrine about this scheme."

Chevron has accused the Ecuadorian judge who ruled on the case of fraud and breach of trust. It has virtually no assets in Ecuador that could be seized, according to the plaintiffs.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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