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Brazil prosecutor charges oil companies with environmental crimes

A Brazilian federal prosecutor on Thursday filed criminal charges against Chevron, Transocean Limited [corporate websites] and 17 executives in relation to an oil spill that occurred late last year. The indictment charges the companies and a number of their executive officers with environmental crimes, as well as charges of damage to public property. A 2,400 barrel oil spill [Global Voices backgrounder] off the coast of Brazil in the Campos Basin in November prompted the filing of these charges. Federal prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira alleges [Reuters report] that the oil spill "affected the entire maritime ecosystem, possibly pushing some species to extinction, and caused impacts on economic activity in the region. ... The employees of Chevron and Transocean caused a contamination time bomb of prolonged effect." In a statement [press release], Chevron denied the charges arguing that "[t]here is no technical or factual evidence demonstrating any willful or negligent conduct by Chevron or its employees associated with the incident."

It was announced in January that federal prosecutors planned to file criminal charges [JURIST report] against Chevron officials over the Campos Basin spill. An $11 billion civil law suit has also been filed against Chevron in connection with this oil spill. Chevron is also currently appealing an $18 billion fine [JURIST report] for pollution in the Amazon jungle. The judgment against Chevron was upheld in January by a three-judge panel of the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. The $18 billion fine, one of the largest in the history of environmental contamination suits, was originally set at $8.6 billion [JURIST report] but was more than doubled for Chevron's refusal to pay "moral reparations" to the Ecuadorian government, as required by the original ruling.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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