06 April 2014, News Wires – Brazilian judges ordered a criminal prosecution of Chevron and 11 employees over a 2011 oil spill, in a process reinstated more than a year after being thrown out following a settlement with the government.
An appeals panel made the 2-to-1 decision in October, but kept it quiet as judges reviewed the US supermajor’s challenges to their ruling, Reuters reported, citing Brazil’s public prosecutor’s office, which opposed the dismissal.
Chevron confirmed the ruling late on Thursday, the news wire said.
The same prosecutor’s office that drew up a settlement to help get the charges dropped is now working to re-open the criminal part of the case, according to Reuters.
Similar, and even larger, spills by other companies in Brazil have not led to criminal charges.
“The prosecutors are trying to show that the defendants’ arguments that there is no proof of an environmental crime are wrong,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
Prosecutors say their evidence shows the defendants are responsible for environmental pollution.
These pollution routes include the spilling of residues, unauthorised extraction of mineral resources, irregular operations with the potential to pollute, damage to public assets and other crimes, prosecutors said in their statement.
Chevron “continues to believe that the complaint is without merit”, the San Ramon, California-based company told Reuters, adding that it intended to fight the ruling.
Employees of drilling contractor Transocean, who were named in the original indictment, were not included in the revived case.
The spill in the Frade field north-east of Rio de Janeiro leaked an estimated 4600 barrels of oil into the ocean.
The defendants face up to three decades in jail if convicted.
Brazilian regulators agreed on 31 March to let Chevron restart full production at Frade, though the company is still barred from operating water-injection wells at the field.
Chevron owns 52% of Frade. Brazil’s state-run Petrobras owns 30% and Frade Japao – a joint venture between Japanese trading houses Inpex and Sojitz – owns 18%.