Brazil Court Allows Chevron Exec to Leave Country

RIO DE JANEIRO–A federal court in Brazil will allow one of the executives charged in a criminal lawsuit related to a November spill at an offshore oil field operated by U.S. major Chevron Corp. (CVX) to pay a bond and leave the country, a source familiar with the court’s decision said Wednesday.

Chevron Brasil President George Buck will have to pay a 500,000 Brazilian reais ($245,000) bond to ensure he will return to Brazil to participate in court cases related to the November spill at the Chevron-operated Frade field. Mr. Buck and 16 other employees at Chevron, drill-rig operator Transocean Ltd. (RIG) and local firm Contecon face criminal charges related to the spill. The court’s decision only covers Mr. Buck, the source said.

Both Chevron and Transocean have denied any wrongdoing.

In March, a federal prosecutor charged the 17 people with environmental crimes in the accident, which regulators estimate caused 3,700 barrels of oil to seep from cracks in the seabed.

In addition to criminal and civil lawsuits, Chevron faces hefty fines from regulators.Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency, or ANP, also suspended Chevron‘s drilling rights in the country. Production at Frade has been halted while Chevron and its partners in the field study the area’s complicated geology.

Chevron operates the field with a 51.7% stake, while Brazilian state-run oil companyPetroleo Brasileiro (PBR, PETR4.BR), or Petrobras, holds a 30% share. The remaining stake is held by the Frade Japao Petroleo Ltda. consortium.

-By Jeff Fick. (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.