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Chevron on offensive in Ecuador suit

  |   Sept. 7, 2010 at 3:36 PM
LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. oil giant Chevron is waging a legal campaign to undermine opposing attorneys in a $27 billion lawsuit over polluted oil wells in Ecuador, documents show.

In the case now 17 years old, Chevron has increased its efforts to discredit the plaintiffs' legal team, most recently by having a U.S. federal judge subpoena the plaintiffs' lead attorney, Steven Donziger, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.

Among its counter-punches in the case, Chevron subpoenaed edited-out footage from a documentary film about the firm's wells in Ecuador and once attempted, unsuccessfully, to hire a journalist to show that the plaintiff's investigations manipulated a cancer study.

The oil giant is now trying to depose Donziger, who Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson said, "appears to be the one coordinating the fraud."

The original lawsuit, Chevron vs. People of Ecuador, revolves around polluted open-pit well sites that plaintiffs say Texaco, which was later bought by Chevron, failed to clean up. Chevron says the cleanup is Petroecuador's responsibility. Petroecuador was Texaco's partner in the drilling projects.

Attorney Ilann Maazel said Chevron's attack on the lead attorney was "definitely a harassing tactic." "They're just trying to overwhelm the plaintiffs. It's a war of attrition," Maazel said.

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