frade oil field

American Offshore Managers Detained By Brazil

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March 21, 2012

frade oil fieldChevron’s George Buck and Transocean’s Michael Legrand top the list of offshore managers banned last Friday by Judge Vlamir Costa Magalhaes from leaving Brazil, according to a local prosecutor in the region. The action is in response to last year’s oil spill which leaked of 3,000 barrels of oil at Chevron’s $3.6-billion Frade field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro and comes after the discovery by the Brazilian Navy of a new sheen of oil in the vicinity of Frade. Prosecutors have also filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages of 20 billion Reals, or about $11.2 billion, from Chevron.

The executives have been stripped of their passports and told not to leave the country. “The managers appear to have foreign citizenship or financial conditions and clear motives to want to leave the country,” Costa Magalhaes said in his order. Their departure “at this time and under the current circumstances, would pose great risk to the investigation and the eventual application of the criminal law,” the judge said. But this is not a typical response for such an incident. “I’ve never seen a spill this small with this size of reaction,” Ali Moshiri, who is in charge of Chevron’s Latin America operations, told The Wall Street Journal in late 2011.

The executives “appear to have foreign citizenship or financial conditions and clear motives to want to leave the country,” Costa Magalhaes said in the order. Their departure “at this time and under the current circumstances, would pose great risk to the investigation and the eventual application of the criminal law,” the judge said.

According to the New York Times, Brazilian news media have criticized George Buck, the head of Chevron’s Brazil operations, after he and Mr. Moshiri were summoned to Brazil’s Congress to discuss the spill, questioning why Mr. Buck relied on a translator instead of speaking Portuguese. Now Mr. Buck, an American, is barred from leaving Brazil, and a lengthy legal battle awaits him and other employees at Chevron and Transocean.

Judge Magalhães issued his ruling prohibiting the departure of the 17 Chevron and Transocean employees at the request of a federal prosecutor. “There is no doubt the exit of these people from the country, at this moment, would generate considerable risk to the investigation,” the judge said. Prosecutors said the criminal charges in connection with environmental crimes could result in prison terms of 20 years for each defendant.

The executives “appear to have foreign citizenship or financial conditions and clear motives to want to leave the country,” Costa Magalhaes said in the order. Their departure “at this time and under the current circumstances, would pose great risk to the investigation and the eventual application of the criminal law,” the judge said.

The Frade oil field, which lies in deep waters off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, was producing about 79,000 barrels a day at the time of last year’s oil spill, according to Chevron.

 

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