Diego Borja must come clean — that was the decision that came down yesterday from Judge Edward Chen in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Borja, a self proclaimed “dirty tricks” operative for Chevron, has been on the run from a subpoena filed by the Ecuadorean government and the Indigenous and campesino plaintiffs in the landmark lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador. The subpoena would compel Borja to reveal key information about how Chevron “cooked” the evidence in the trial.
“We think we have the ring leader of the dirty tricks,” was how the plaintiffs’ lawyer described Borja. The judge ordered Borja’s deposition to take place within the next 30 days.
On Monday, the court in Ecuador found Chevron guilty of deliberately polluting the Amazon rainforest and ordered the oil giant to pay $8.6 billion in damages. The decision is a blow to the company and marks a major milestone for corporate accountability. But the struggle is far from over, as Chevron has vowed to not pay up.
Both sides are appealing the decision (the plaintiffs want the judge to consider other categories of damages) and Borja’s information is still key to both the case in Ecuador (as it goes through appeal) and Chevron’s attempts in the U.S. to block the Indigenous and campesino residents from enforcing the Ecuadorean court’s decision and collecting the clean up funds from Chevron.
The Government of Ecuador’s interest in Borja is to procure key information to help in their international arbitration proceeding in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. In 2009, Chevron filed a petition claiming that by allowing the trial to move forward, the Ecuadorean government is in violation of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty, given Chevron and the government signed an agreement in 1998 that supposedly cleared the oil giant of its liability. That agreement followed what Chevron purports to have been a clean-up of the region, but which has been unveiled as a sham remediation, involving little more than sprinkling top soil on top of toxic oil waste pits. Two Chevron employees, along with key Ecuadorean government officials, are currently under criminal investigation in Ecuador for their involvement in that fraudulent agreement.
At the center of all of this is Diego Borja. Borja is a long-time Chevron contractor who, in a series of recorded conversations with a childhood friend, revealed he has incriminating evidence against Chevron. Borja has stated that Chevron hired him to create four companies connected to a laboratory to test oil contamination samples from the affected region in Ecuador, and that he was hired to give the impression the labs were “independent,” when in fact they “belonged” to Chevron. Borja’s wife, Sarah Portillo, also a former Chevron employee, represented a U.S. lab that Chevron — described as “independent” — to test its contamination samples. She too might be ordered to testify soon.
When it was revealed that Borja is sitting on information that would incriminate Chevron, the oil major whisked him out of Ecuador and set him up with a $6,000-a-month rental house outside Chevron’s headquarters in California, while paying him a $10,000-a-month salary. Yesterday Borja’s lawyers revealed he has been hiding in Texas.
Given the judge’s orders — Borja may be rethinking his famous words: “Crime does pay.”