Oil spill: Chevron, Transocean Brazil staff indicted

22 December 2011, Sweetcrude, RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian police have recommended that several Chevron and Transocean officials involved in an oil spill in early November be indicted for environmental crimes and withholding information in an investigation.

The indictment is unrelated to a civil suit brought against the companies by a public prosecutor on December 14, seeking fines of $11 billion for their alleged roles in the spill at Chevron’s Frade field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

Head of the investigation for the federal police in Rio de Janeiro Fabio Scliar said on Wednesday he submitted his report to the Federal Public Ministry recommending that it bring charges against the two companies and its employees.

“I affirmed my conviction … of environmental crimes and withholding information,” Scliar told Reuters by phone.

Employees of the two companies, including Chevron’s Brazil chief executive George Buck, could face charges if the federal prosecutor’s office, which is in recess until 2012, accepts Scliar’s recommendations and pursues them in the courts.

Scliar said the companies were increasing the risks of an environmental accident in drilling.

“They were betting on luck and lost, which caused this whole problem that led to environmental losses of grand proportions,” Scliar said.

Chevron said it was advised the police were seeking indictments against its employees in Brazil, but that it believes these “are without merit,” a company spokesman told Reuters.

“We will vigorously defend the company and its employees,” the spokesman said in an email. “The facts … will demonstrate that Chevron responded appropriately and responsibly.”

Representatives from Transocean also said the indictments were groundless and that the facts would exonerate the company and employees when fully examined, Reuters reported.

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