QUITO - A court in the Ecuadorean jungle region where giant U.S. oil producer Chevron Corp faces a $27 billion environmental damages suit has named a new judge to hear the case, after the previous one quit amid a bribery scandal.
Chevron accused judge Juan Nunez of being involved in a $3 million bribery scheme. The company offered secretly videotaped footage as evidence, shot with cameras hidden in a watch and a pen, which prompted a local investigation.
Nunez denied any wrongdoing but requested that he be taken off the case. He has been replaced in the matter by Nicolas Zambrano, according to an order released on Tuesday by the Court of Sucumbios province.
Indigenous communities have accused Texaco, which Chevron bought in 2001, of damaging the environment and their health while operating petroleum facilities in the country's Amazon region. Chevron denies the charges.
The company no longer has operations in Ecuador, where leftist President Rafael Correa says he sides with the plaintiffs.
Chevron accuses Correa's government of meddling in the 16-year-old case. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia, writing by Hugh Bronstein, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)