Chevron Argentina says victim of fraud, seeks lifting of embargo

The Argentine unit of Chevron Corp. (CVX) asked local courts to revoke an embargo of its assets in the country related to a $19 billion award over pollution in Ecuador, saying the ruling affects local operations.

“Chevron Argentina is victim of a fraud,” the company said in a paid statement published in newspapers Clarin and La Nacion today. “Chevron Argentina has never had operations in Ecuador and has no relation with the fraudulent trial in Ecuador.”

Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda ordered 40 percent of Chevron’s Argentine bank accounts to be held in escrow, Enrique Bruchou, an Argentine attorney representing Ecuadorean plaintiffs, said on Nov. 7.

The plaintiffs are seeking to enforce a $19 billion award against Chevron, which they say is responsible for destroying the environment in the Lago Agrio region, damaging living conditions of 30,000 inhabitants. Chevron, which on Sept. 14 signed a memorandum of understanding to help develop Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation, says the Ecuador judgment is illegitimate and the embargo is improper.

The embargo endangers “Chevron Argentina’s capacity to operate and reinvest as the order affects more than 90 percent of the income from crude sales,” according to today’s statement. Those funds are used to pay salaries, royalties, taxes and capital investments, Chevron said.

The company, which employs 1,500 people in Argentina, said the funds should be applied to invest in Argentina to recover the country’s capacity to supply itself with energy.