Chevron halts output after navy spots oil stains
* Regulator ANP allows Chevron to stop production
* Spill in November led to $11.1 billion civil suit (Recasts to add court decision, production halt)
By Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Jeb Blount
SAO PAULO/RIO DE JANEIRO, March 17 (Reuters) – A Brazilian court on Saturday barred 17 executives from Chevron and Transocean from leaving Brazil, pending criminal charges related to a high-profile oil spill last November.
A federal judge in Rio de Janeiro state granted a request from prosecutors who are pressing for charges against both firms, a spokesman for prosecutor Eduardo Oliveira said in a phone interview. George Buck, who heads Chevron’s Brazil unit, and the other 16 executives must turn in their passports to the police within 24 hours, the spokesman said.
Charges are expected to be filed on Tuesday or Wednesday, according to the prosecutors’ press office.
The court decision came a day after the Brazilian navy spotted a thin stain of oil extending for about 0.6 mile (1 km) in offshore field Frade, which was also the site of last year’s spill. U.S.-based Chevron said in a statement it halted production at Frade on Saturday after winning permission from Brazilian oil industry regulator ANP.
Neither Chevron nor any of its executives “have been formally notified of any action by the judiciary yet,” the company statement said. “Any legal decision will be abided by the company and its employees. We will defend the company and its employees.”
Prosecutors want to press a criminal indictment of Buck and other executives from Chevron and Swiss-based offshore drilling company Transocean, three government sources told Reuters in January. Transocean’s rig was used in the Frade field.
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