The Supreme Court of Canada. Image courtesy of D. Gordon E. Robertson /Wikimedia Commons.

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a group of Ecuadorean villagers can file a lawsuit against Chevron in Ontario for pollution in their home country stretching back to 1964.

According to Reuters, the court ruled unanimously that the group can sue Chevron Canada for contamination around Lago Agrio, Ecuador that occurred between 1964 and 1992.

The villagers initially filed suit against Texaco nearly 20 years ago, before the company was acquired by Chevron in 2000.

In 2013, Ecuador’s high court cut a $18 billion judgement against Chevron down to about $9.5 billion.

The Canadian Supreme Court rejected Chevron’s argument that Canada was an inappropriate venue for the case because Chevron Canada was not part of the Ecuadorean judgement, Reuters said.

“A debt is enforceable against any and all assets of a given debtor, not merely those that may have a relationship to the claim,” the court said.

The court did not rule on the merits of the case.

Chevron told Reuters it will argue in the lower Ontario court that the lawsuit should be halted early on the grounds that the initial judgment “is the product of fraud and other misconduct, and is therefore illegitimate and unenforceable.”

In March 2014, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said that he found “clear and convincing evidence” that the villagers’ case was tainted by corruption.

Judge Kaplan said in his ruling that Chevron had presented “voluminous” evidence against Steven Donziger, the American attorney spearheading the villagers’ efforts, including coded emails, secret payments and private meetings with judges that “normally come out of Hollywood.”

Judge Kaplan added that the evidence showed that Donziger and his legal team bribed an Ecuadorean judge to issue the initial $18 billion judgment against the oil company in 2011.

The decision did not dispute that pollution occurred and does not prevent enforcement of the Ecuadorean judgment.

However, it does bar Donziger and two other representatives from “profiting from the egregious fraud that has occurred.”

According to Chevron, Texaco spent $40 million to clean up its share of the sites and was released from any further liability by both local communities and the Ecuadorian government.


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