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Chevron units appeal Argentine asset freeze
Two units of Chevron, the US oil major, have filed an appeal to overturn a $19bn asset freeze in Argentina ordered this week to enforce an Ecuadorean judgment awarding record damages to Amazonian villagers for environmental contamination.
"Chevron Corp, the sole judgment debtor, has no assets in Argentina. All operations in Argentina are conducted by subsidiaries that have nothing to do with the fraudulent judgment in Ecuador," the company said in a statement.
"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," it added.
Chevron, the second-biggest US oil producer by market capitalisation, is in negotiations with YPF, the oil company expropriated from Repsol in May, to develop the Vaca Muerta shale reserves on which Argentina is pinning its hopes to revert sinking its energy production and reliance on expensive imports.
Enrique Bruchou, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, says 100 per cent of Chevron Argentina's stock, worth some $2bn, all of its dividends, its entire 14 per cent stake in Oleoductos del Valle, an oil pipeline company, 40 per cent of revenue from oil sales and 40 per cent of its Argentine bank accounts were covered by the court order, and that any appeal had to be filed in Argentina and then sent to the Ecuadorean court.
The order would stand until the $19bn had been paid up, Mr Bruchou said, adding assets seized would be paid into an escrow account pending appeals in the two-decades-old case. Plaintiffs are also seeking to seize Chevron assets in Canada, Brazil and Colombia and will target Europe, Asia and Oceania next.
Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs, denied Chevron's fraud charges and said: "We expect that Chevron's attempt to undo the freeze order in Argentina will fail." Chevron is Argentina's fourth-biggest oil producer.
"The Ecuadorean plaintiffs and their allies in law firms around the world are prepared to freeze and then seize Chevron assets to ensure a complete clean-up of the toxic waste the oil giant left in Ecuador. We again call on Chevron to meet its legal obligations and pay the legitimate Ecuador judgment immediately," she added.
The two subsidiaries which appealed are Chevron Argentina and Ing Norberto Priú.
Chevron inherited the Ecuador dispute when it bought Texaco Petroleum in 2001.
The plaintiffs accuse Chevron of malpractice that has led to severe environmental damage and 306 cases of cancer in 227 families. Chevron argues that Texaco fulfilled its clean-up responsibilities under a 1995 agreement with Ecuador and blames state-owned oil company Petroecuador for much of the contamination.
[Source: By Jude Webber in Buenos Aires, Financial Times, London, 09Nov12]
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