Argentine Judge Orders Chevron Asset Seizure, Plaintiffs

An Argentine judge ordered the seizure of all Chevron Corp.’s assets in the country, according to Enrique Bruchou, a lawyer representing Ecuadorean plaintiffs in a lawsuit over pollution in the Amazon rain forest.

Bruchou, an Argentine attorney at Bruchou, Fernandez, Madero & Lombardi, made the comments today in a conference call. Civil Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda ordered 40 percent of Chevron’s Argentine bank accounts to be held in escrow, Bruchou said. Miranda declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg saying judges speak through their rulings.

The Ecuadorean plaintiffs said Oct. 31 they were asking an Argentine court to enforce a $19 billion award against Chevron, filing an attachment order in a Court of Justice in Buenos Aires in line with an international treaty signed by Ecuador, Argentina and Colombia that speeds up attachments. The Ecuadoreans blame Texaco Inc., which Chevron acquired in 2001, for destroying the environment in the Lago Agrio region, damaging living conditions of 30,000 inhabitants. Lago Agrio was named after Sour Lake in Texas.

Chevron is unaware of either a filing by the plaintiffs or a court order in Argentina, James Craig, a spokesman for the San Ramon, California-based company said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“The plaintiffs’ lawyers have no legal right to embargo subsidiary assets in Argentina and should not be allowed to disrupt Argentina’s pursuit of its important energy resources,” he said. “The Ecuador judgment is a product of bribery, fraud, and it is illegitimate.”

Shale Investments

Chevron, the fourth-largest producer of oil in Argentina, signed a memorandum of understanding on Sept. 14 with YPF SA, Argentina’s biggest energy company, to analyze a partnership to jointly develop projects at the shale formation of Vaca Muerta. Alejandro Di Lazzaro, an spokesman for YPF in Buenos Aires, declined to comment in an e-mail.

Chevron will face more attachment requests in Europe, Asia and Oceania, Bruchou said today. Another related lawsuit was filed by the Ecuadoreans in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on May 30. Chevron Canada Ltd. will have a hearing on the lawsuit Nov. 28.

The company on Oct. 9 lost a U.S. Supreme Court bid to block the judgment imposed by an Ecuadorean court. The highest U.S. court let stand a federal appeals court ruling against Chevron that the Ecuadoreans can’t be barred from seeking to collect the award anywhere in the world.

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