Washington, DC - Wayne Hansen, the American businessman who helped make the secret videos being used by Chevron in an attempt to taint an environmental trial where the company faces a $27 billion liability, is a convicted felon who was charged with conspiring to import more than 275,000 pounds of marijuana from Colombia to the United States, according to a search of public records.
Chevron, in trying to explain the secret videos, has described Hansen as an "American businessman" motivated by civic duty to expose corruption in Ecuador by implicating the judge overseeing the environmental trial in a bribe related to a clean-up contract that Hansen claimed to be trying to secure for his company. Hansen, along with Ecuadorian Diego Borja, a Chevron contractor, shot the videos from micro-cameras in a watch and a pen and turned them over to Chevron, according to the company.
Since then, numerous discrepancies have emerged in Chevron's account that have been documented by the Amazon Defense Coalition – including the company's recent admission that Borja has received substantial payments from Chevron to relocate to the United States and additional payments to cover his living expenses, and that the fees for criminal defense attorneys representing both men are being paid by Chevron.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case retained an investigator to gather information on Borja and Hansen to determine whether Chevron's claim they are civic-minded is consistent with their known character, said Steven Donziger, an American legal advisor to dozens of Amazonian communities suing the oil giant for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon.
Hansen is seen on the tapes trying to bribe a man purporting to be an Ecuadorian government official for a remediation contract, apparently in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (a U.S. law which prohibits American persons and companies from bribing foreign officials). It turns out the man, Patricio Garcia, is a car salesman and has no ties to the government, according to reports from Dow Jones and Bloomberg.
The investigation of Hansen, conducted by San Francisco-area investigator and attorney Grant Fine, is ongoing. Thus far, it has revealed the following:
* In 1986, Hansen pled guilty in U.S. federal court for his role in a conspiracy to import 275,000 pounds of marijuana – an amount that today would have a street value of $275 million, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. He was sentenced to serve two years and eights months in prison.
* Hansen has no known ties to any environmental remediation company in the U.S. and is unknown in the American remediation industry, despite telling Ecuadorian officials he was "highly qualified" to engage in environmental remediation. Hansen holds no engineering license and never finished college.
* Ecuadorian immigration records reveal Hansen was in Ecuador continuously this year from April 18 to June 16 – dates that coincide with three of the four videotaped meetings. It is unclear who paid his expenses or what work he was doing other than planning and executing the videotaping scheme with Borja.
* Several witnesses who know Hansen describe him as a dishonest, unscrupulous man. Witnesses referred to him as a "liar," a "con man," a "crook," and a "hustler." He does not appear to have stable employment, and he has transferred his primary assets to his wife.
* Hansen has a pattern of flouting the law. The city of Bakersfield, CA recently condemned his home when he repeatedly did renovations without proper permits. He has been sued recently for a vicious attack by his pit bull and for unlawfully occupying another person's house. The plaintiffs in each case allege that Hansen lied in the course of defending himself. In one case, the court ordered that his wife's wages be garnished to satisfy a judgment against Hansen.
* Hansen has associated himself in business with numerous disreputable individuals. One, Leslie Dutcher, is also a convicted felon whom Hansen met while incarcerated in federal prison. Another appears to be involved in setting up religious charities to solicit donations, which he then appropriates for personal use.
* In mid-July of this year, while Chevron was in possession of the videotapes but had not disclosed that fact, Hansen called the communications spokesperson for the Amazon Defense Coalition in an apparent effort to entrap her in improper activity. During the call, made from Hansen's cell phone number in the United States, he claimed to have taken a file from the office of the judge presiding over the environmental trial in Ecuador and was looking for information on how to return it.
The Fine investigation has uncovered more disturbing information about both Hansen and Borja that will be divulged when it can be confirmed. In the meantime, the current report is being handed over to the U.S. Department of Justice and Ecuador's Solicitor General, who is conducting a separate investigation.
Donziger also said the report would be sent to Chevron's Board of Directors for review. In the past, representatives of the plaintiffs have criticized Chevron's Board for not independently vetting management's handling of the Ecuador liability, which implicates roughly 20% of the company's market value.
"This investigation makes clear that the real Wayne Hanson bears no resemblance to the fictitious civic-minded character created by Chevron to explain how it suddenly came into innocent possession of the videos," said Donziger.
"The reality is far more complicated and requires a complete investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice of Hansen's relationship to Chevron's lawyers in both Ecuador and the United States," he added.
The lawsuit accuses Texaco (now Chevron) of dumping more than 18 billion gallons of oil and toxic water into the Ecuadorian rainforest when it operated an oil concession from 1964 to 1990. Chevron maintains that Texaco in the mid 1990s cleaned a small number of its 356 wells sites in exchange for a liability release from Ecuador's government, but the release does not cover the private claims of the type being litigated in the lawsuit, said Donziger.
Donziger also said evidence adduced in the trial show illegal and lethal levels of toxins at the oil sites Texaco claimed it had remediated, suggesting the clean-up was at best ineffective and at worst a fraud.