Argentina Freezes Chevron Assets Over Ecuador Pollution Case

Argentina, BUENOS AIRES

Argentine Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda this week ordered an embargo on US-based oil giant Chevron Corp’s assets within Argentina in an attempt to uphold an Ecuadorian court ruling that awarded $19 billion USD to indigenous Amazonian people for contamination of land and water.

"An Argentine judge has decreed Chevron assets in Argentina frozen in compliance with the Ecuadorian judge's request," Enrique Bruchou, an attorney for the plaintiffs, was quoted by local press as saying.

The judge’s order requires all of Chevron’s cash flows from sales and bank deposits be frozen until the full $19 billion USD is collected, Bruchou explained. This includes 100 percent of Chevron Argentina’s capital stock, 100 percent of its dividends, 40 percent of any current or future holdings, and 40 percent of all its crude sales.

The plaintiffs’ attorney said that this case, as the largest environmental award in the world, must set an example to all foreign investors that they must either comply with environmental standards or face huge fines.

“We’re making history in the preservation of the environment,” he said. “This is a ruling that sets an example. What we’re telling the world is that in Latin America we want to demand that whoever comes to exploit does it following the same health and environmental standards as they do in their countries of origin.”

Chevron, however, says it knew nothing about the plaintiffs’ filing in Argentina or the court order. They also argued that their Argentina operations have nothing to do with what has taken place in Ecuador.

Chevron has maintained from the beginning that the Ecuador judgment was the result of fraud, and therefore illegitimate. It has refused to pay any part of the $19 billion USD award.

The fine was originally $18.2 billion USD, but was increased due to interest on late payment.

Chevron brought the case to the United States hoping to have it declared illegitimate. After conflicting results in lower courts, the US Supreme Court in October refused to hear the case without explanation.

The Ecuadorian case is based on Texaco Petroleum’s unchecked contamination of land and water in Ecuador’s Amazon region from 1964 to 1990. Chevron inherited the legal complaint when it purchased Texaco in 2001.

In 1998, Texaco and the Ecuadorian government signed a $40 million USD cleanup agreement, which Chevron claims absolves it of any liability. The plaintiffs say that cleanup did not even begin to repair the damage Texaco created in its nearly 30 years of operation. 

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