Chevron Executives Face Criminal Charges for Brazilian Oil Spill

   on March 21 2012 2:16 PM
An aerial view shows oil that seeped from a well operated by Chevron in the Frade Field, which is located off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
An aerial view shows oil that seeped from a well operated by Chevron in the Frade field off the Atlantic coast of Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state on Nov. 18, 2011. REUTERS

Chevron (NYSE: CVX) oil executives face criminal charges in Brazil after company drilling allegedly caused an oil spill in the South Atlantic.

Prosecutors announced earlier this week they'd file criminal charges Wednesday, and a judge last week prevented 17 workers, Chevron's Brazil Chief George Buck among them, from leaving the country.

The head of Transocean's (NYSE: RIG) Brazilian subsidiary is also among the listed. Transocean is among the companies involved in the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Attempts to reach out to Chevron went unanswered Wednesday, and it's unclear if charges were filed.

Transocean has always cooperated with the authorities, but will continue to defend its staff, said spokesman Guy Cantwell.

Marcelo del Negri, a spokesman for the prosecutors in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state, said criminal charges will be put before the courts. A judge will then have to decide if the employees will face a trial, reported the Associated Press.

Jail Terms Possible

Del Negri told the AP Wednesday he is unsure which charges will be filed. It's also unclear how much jail time, if any, the executives could face, the AP said.

Chevron has said it will abide by any legal decision, but that it will also defend its employees.

In November, a Chevron appraisal well experienced a spike in pressure which fractured the ocean floor offshore Brazil.  Oil started seeping through the fractures. Roughly 2,400 barrels of oil leaked.

Chevron is facing a $11 billion suit in Brazil for the spill.

Last week, a small oil slick was reported to Brazilian authorities. Chevron announced small droplets of oil were escaping through a seep in the ground in the same vicinity as the earlier leak.

Brazilian oil regulators found five leaks along an 800-meter-long fissure on the ocean floor.

Chevron officials Wednesday announced the oil from the second leak was chemically different than the first.

The second leak has since been contained and the Chevron's operations have been temporarily suspended.

Chevron shares traded down $1.11 at $107.96 in late Wednesday activity.

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