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Chevron indictments expected soon in Brazil

The Americas Post - Chevron managers could end up in Brazilian prison

Brazilian prosecutors are planning to file criminal charges against Chevron Corp within the next several weeks, adding the possibility of prison time to an $11 billion civil lawsuit for a November oil spill offshore.

The federal court filing in Campos, Brazil, will probably include a criminal indictment of Chevron Brazil CEO George Buck and other staff, Brazilian government officials have revealed.

Transocean Ltd, whose rig was used in the operation, and some employees in Brazil will also be charged, according to the officials.  A judge will then decide whether to accept the charges and move ahead with indictments.

Buck and Chevron acted in a “careless and irresponsible way,” said one official who investigated the 2,400-barrel spill.  He admitted it is unlikely that people facing charges will be arrested soon or be prohibited from leaving Brazil. As the case advances however, those measures could be applied.

The charges would come more than a month after a Federal Police investigator submitted a report saying Chevron and Transocean took “unacceptable” risks in the Frade oil field off Brazil’s southern coast, and recommended that 17 individuals be indicted.

Police and prosecutors alleged that Chevron knew it was drilling in a high pressure area and that rock structures above the reservoir were fragile, factors that should have prompted more caution.

“This well could not and should not have been drilled,” the Federal Police said in a December 20 report.

Chevron denies taking undue risks and says Brazilian authorities approved drilling plans.  Oil from the leak did not reach shore and was less than 0.1 percent of BP’s 4.9 million barrel Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010. The Frade leak was also much smaller than several previous spills in Brazil by Petrobras.