SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Seventeen executives from Chevron and Transocean have been barred from leaving Brazil pending criminal charges related to last year's high-profile oil spill, reported CNN. A federal judge in Rio de Janeiro state granted a request from prosecutors who are pressing charges against both firms. George Buck, an American and COO of Chevron's Brazil division, and 16 other executives must hand over their passports to police within 24 hours.
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Charges are expected to be filed on Tuesday or Wednesday, according to MSNBC. The court made its decision one day after the Brazilian navy spotted a thin trail of oil extending for about 1km (0.6 miles) in offshore Frade field, which is the same site where last year's spill occurred. United States-based Chevron claimed it stopped production at Frade on Saturday after getting permission from ANP, Brazil's oil industry regulator.
The oil stain is located 130km (80 miles) off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, reported Latin American Herald Tribune. According to a statement released by the navy, ANP and environmental authorities, oil has begun seeping out of fissures in the sea floor.
Neither Chevron nor its executives "have been formally notified of any action by the judiciary yet," the company statement said, according to MSNBC. "Any legal decision will be abided by the company and its employees. We will defend the company and its employees."
CNN reported that the deep-water oil spill that brought on the charges occurred last November off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian federal prosecutors filed a civil suit against Chevron and Transocean for $20 billion reais (about $11 million) the following month. It also requested Chevron's operations in Brazil be stopped.
"Chevron and Transocean were not able to control the damages caused by the spilling of almost 3,000 barrels of oil, which shows a lack of environmental planning and management by the companies," the prosecutors' office said in a statement at the time, according to CNN.