A federal judge in New York today slapped a stern order on attorney Steven Donziger and the Ecuadorean villagers he claims to represent, prohibiting them from capitalizing on a $9 billion judgment the judge said was the product of â€œegregious fraud.â€
The judge is completely, utterly full of shit,Â here’s the real story.
Greece’s economy blew apart because a bunch of olive-spitting, ouzo-guzzling, lazy-ass Greeks refuse to put in a full day’s work, retire while they’re still teenagers, pocket pensions fit for aÂ pasha; and they’ve gone on a social-services spending spree using borrowed money. Now that the bill has come due and the Greeks have to pay with higher taxes and cuts in their big fatÂ welfare state, they run riot, screaming in the streets, busting windows and burning banks.
I don’t buy it.Â Â I don’t buy it because of the document in my hand marked, “RESTRICTED DISTRIBUTION.”
I’ll cut to the indictment: Â Greece is a crime scene. Â The people are victims of a fraud, a scam, a hustle and a flim-flam. Â Andâ€“â€“cover the children’s ears when I say thisâ€“â€“a bank named Goldman Sachs is holding theÂ smoking gun.
In 2002, Goldman Sachs secretly bought up â‚¬2.3 billion in Greek government debt, converted it all into yen and dollars, then immediately sold it back to Greece.
Goldman took a huge loss on the trade.
Is Goldman that stupid?
Goldman is stupidâ€”like a fox. The deal was a con, with Goldman making up a phony-baloney exchange rate for the transaction. Â Why?
Goldman had cut a secret deal with the Greek government in power then.Â Â Their game:Â Â to conceal a massive budget deficit. Â Goldman’s fake loss was the Greek government’s fake gain.
Goldman would get repayment of its â€œlossâ€ from the government at loan-shark rates.
The point is, through this crazy and costly legerdemain, Greece’s right-wing free-market government was able to pretend its deficits never exceeded 3 percent of GDP.
Cool. Fraudulent but cool.
But flim-flam isnâ€™t cheap these days: On top of murderous interest payments, Goldman charged the Greeks over a quarter billion dollars in fees.
When the new Socialist government of George Papandreou came into office, they opened up the books and Goldman’s bats flew out. Â Investors’ went berserk, demanding monster interestÂ rates to lend more money to roll over this debt.
Greece’s panicked bondholders rushed to buy insurance against the nation going bankrupt.Â Â The price of the bond-bust insurance, called aÂ credit default swap (or CDS), also shot through theÂ roof. Â Who made a big pile selling the CDS insurance? Â Goldman.
And those rotting bags of CDS’s sold by Goldman and others? Didn’t they know they were handing their customers gold-painted turds?
That’s Goldman’s specialty.Â Â In 2007, at the same time banks were selling suspect CDS’s and CDOs (packaged sub-prime mortgage securities), Goldman held a â€œnet shortâ€ position against these securities. That is, Goldman was betting their financial “products” would end up in the toilet. Goldman picked upÂ another half a billion dollars on their “net short” scam.
But, instead of cuffing Goldman’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein and parading him in a cage through the streets of Athens, we have the victims of the frauds, the Greek people, blamed.Â Â Blamed and soaked for the cost of it.Â Â The “spread” on Greek bonds (the term used for the risk premium paid on Greece’s corrupted debt) has now risen to â€” get ready for thisâ€“â€“$14,000 per family per year.
Euro-nation, the secret Geithner memo, and the Ecuador connection
Why did the Greek government throw its nation’s fate into Goldman’s greasy hands?Â Â What the heck was in the “RESTRICTED” document? And why did I have to take it to Geneva, to throw itÂ down in front of the Director-General of the WTO for authentication, a creepy French banker I otherwise wouldn’t bother to spit on, and then tear off to Quito to share it with the gratefulÂ President of Ecuador?
To give you all the answers would require me to write a book.Â Â I have:Â Â Vultures’ Picnicâ€“â€“in Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Fraudsters.
It’s really quite important to me that you read it, that you get it now.Â Â That’s a funny statement, I suppose, from an author.Â Â But if you’ve been reading my stories in The Guardian or watching my reports onÂ BBC Newsnight, you’ve gotten the facts; but I really want to let you inside the investigations, to cross the continents with me and follow down the leads so that you can get a fullÂ picture of The Beasts.Â Â The Beasts and their trophy wives, intelligence agency go-fers, political concubines and bone-breakers.Â Â And besides, it’s enormous fun when it’s not scary as sh*t.
Here’s aÂ tasteÂ of Chapter 12 – The Generalissimo of Globalization – from the film-enhanced eBook edition. Â [And more on the 1% Greece-ing us, check out the upcoming issue of In These Times.]
Note:Â Â I will be in Chicago for In These Times on November 29, part of our 15 city tour that begins this coming Sunday, November 13, in Portland, then moves to San Francisco, LA, SanÂ Diego, Denver, Boulder, New Mexico, Albuquerque, Chicago, Madison, New York, DC, Houston, Burlington, and Atlanta. Find out more info here.
Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores.
Get it now! For more information about Palast’s brand new book and his book-signing events in your city, go to www.VulturesPicnic.org
Chevron petroleum Corporation is attempting to slither out of an $8 billion judgment rendered yesterday by a trial court inÂ Ecuador for cancer deaths, illnesses and destruction caused by its Texaco unit.
I’ve been there, in Ecuador.
I met the victims. Â They didn’t lose their shrimp boats; they lost their kids. Â Emergildo Criollo, Chief of the Cofan Natives of the Amazon, told meÂ about his three-year-old. Â “He went swimming, then began vomiting blood.” Then he died.
When I showedÂ Texaco lawyer RodrigoÂ PerezÂ the epidemiological studies tracing childhood cancers to their oil, Â heÂ sneered and said , “And itâ€™s the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States, inÂ Europe, in Quito? If there is somebody with cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the deaths were] caused by crude or by the petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude â€“ which is absolutely impossible.”
The Texaco man stated,Â “Scientifically, nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”
President Barack Obama has said that the British-based BP must pay for all the damage it caused in the Gulf.
I’ve just returned from the Gulf and I can tell you, it’s grim, it’s terrible. Â But compared to the damage caused by Chevron-Texaco, the Gulf blow-out is a picnic.
So now, Mr. President, will you stand by your words and tell this renegade, deadly US corporation to pay for the damage they have done?
At the end of my meeting with the oil company lawyers, I showed them a document in which Chevron-Texaco directed its underlings to destroy evidence.
The oil company men said they would get back to me with an “explanation.” Â It’s been three years, and I’m still waiting.
There is another insidious game being played by Chevron. Â The oil company’s ethically-challenged law firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has attempted to block the Cofan and other victims of Chevron from having legal counsel. Â They have even convinced some pinhead judge to block collection of Ecuador’s judgment because harming Chevron would be a blow to “global business.”
In early March Colombia invaded Ecuador, killed a guerrilla chief in the jungle, opened his laptop â€“ and what did the Colombians find? A message to Hugo Chavez that he sent the FARC guerrillas $300 million â€“ which theyâ€™re using to obtain uranium to make a dirty bomb!
This week, Colombia’s military invaded Ecuador, killing a guerrilla leader hiding there. Undoubtedly, the invasion, which has brought Ecuador, Colombia and their border-mate Venezuela, to the bring of war, was meant to undermine the new, progressive, and very popular government of Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s new President.Correa, shining new star of South America’s rising Left, and an ally of President Hugo Chavez, granted an extraordinary interview to Greg Palast, Correa’s only English-language interview of his presidency.
Watch or listen to an excerpt as broadcast two weeks ago on Democracy Now!
And catch Palast’s interviews with President Hugo Chavez for BBC Newsnight and on-the-ground investigations on the DVD, “The Assassination of Hugo Chavez.” Trailer here.
A Conversation with Ecuador’s New President [Quito] I don’t know what the hell seized me. In the middle of an hour-long interview with the President of Ecuador, I asked him about his father.
I’m not Barbara Walters. It’s not the kind of question I ask.
He hesitated. Then said, “My father was unemployed.â€
He paused. Then added, “He took a little drugs to the States… This is called in Spanish a mula [mule]. He passed four years in the states- in a jail.â€
He continued. “I’d never talked about my father before.”
Apparently he hadn’t. His staff stood stone silent, eyes widened.
Correa’s dad took that frightening chance in the 1960s, a time when his family, like almost all families in Ecuador, was destitute. Ecuador was the original “banana republic” – and the price of bananas had hit the floor. A million desperate Ecuadorans, probably a tenth of the entire adult population, fled to the USA anyway they could.
“My mother told us he was working in the States.”
His father, released from prison, was deported back to Ecuador. Humiliated, poor, broken, his father, I learned later, committed suicide.
At the end of our formal interview, through a doorway surrounded by paintings of the pale plutocrats who once ruled this difficult land, he took me into his own Oval Office. I asked him about an odd-looking framed note he had on the wall. It was, he said, from his daughter and her grade school class at Christmas time. He translated for me.
“We are writing to remind you that in Ecuador there are a lot of very poor children in the streets and we ask you please to help these children who are cold almost every night.â€
It was kind of corny. And kind of sweet. A smart display for a politician.
Or maybe there was something else to it.
Correa is one of the first dark-skinned men to win election to this Quechua and mixed-race nation. Certainly, one of the first from the streets. He’d won a surprise victory over the richest man in Ecuador, the owner of the biggest banana plantation.
Doctor Correa, I should say, with a Ph.D in economics earned in Europe. …more
Greg Palast gets the exclusive interview with President Correa of Ecuador only on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. From the makers of The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, Greg Palast and cameraman Richard Rowley.
BBC Television Newsnight has been able to get close-in film of a new Cofan Indian ritual deep in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest. Known as “The Filing of the Law Suit,” natives of Ecuador’s jungle, decked in feathers and war paint and heavily armed with lawyers, are filmed presenting a new complaint in their litigation seeking $12 billion from Chevron Inc., the international oil goliath.
It would all be a poignant joke – except that the indigenous tribe is suddenly the odds-on favorite to defeat the oil company known for naming its largest tanker, “Condoleezza,” after former Chevron director, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
For Newsnight, reporter Greg Palast, steps (somewhat inelegantly) into a dug-out log canoe to seek out the Cofan in their rainforest village to investigate their allegations. Palast discovers stinking pits of old oil drilling residue leaking into drinking water – and meets farmers whose limbs are covered in pustules.
The Cofan’s leader, Emergildo Criollo, tells Palast that when Texaco Oil, now part of Chevron, came to the village in 1972, it obtained permission to drill by offering the Indians candy and cheese. The indigenous folk threw the funny-selling cheese into the jungle.
Criollo says his three-year son died from oil contamination after, “He went swimming, then began vomiting blood.”
Flying out of the rainforest, past the Andes volcanoes, Palast gets the other side of the story in Ecuador’s capitol, Quito. “It’s the largest fraud in history!” asserts Chevron …more