A Brazilian judge ruled March 18 that oil executives from Chevron Corp. in Brazil could not leave the country, as prosecutors weigh charges against them for an oil spill in the Atlantic Ocean last November.
Some 110,000 gallons of crude spilled off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
The case brings the California-based Chevron to the forefront of legal battles in Latin America. The country is battling a ruling in Ecuador that it is responsible for millions of gallons of toxic wastewater that Texaco, which it acquired in 2001, spilled during its nearly three decades of operations there.
While Chevron had sealed the exploration well from where the seepage was stemming, it said in early March that it detected new oil seeping from the area and that it was unrelated to the November spill for which the company paid a US$28 million fine.
Judge Vlamir Costa Magalhães barred Chevron´s Brazil chief George Buck and 16 other executives from Chevron and drilling contractor Transocean from leaving the country. The National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels suspended Chevron from any exploration in the country.
Federal prosecutors filed charges against the company on March 21 for “environmental crime and damage to public property” and asked for 31-year prison sentences.