* Criminal and two civil cases taken from prosecutor
* Charges unchanged but cases now with new prosecutors
* Companies pleased with shift of cases to Rio
By Reese Ewing
SAO PAULO, April 18 The Brazilian federal
prosecutor pressing criminal and civil litigation against
Chevron Corp and drilling-rig operator Transocean Ltd
for an offshore drilling accident has lost control of
A judge moved a criminal case against Chevron and Transocean
to a court in Rio de Janeiro, a court document said on
Wednesday, removing crusading prosecutor Eduardo Santos de
Oliveira from the proceeding.
The criminal case was the last of three high-profile cases
by Santos de Oliveira to be moved to Rio, including two 20
billion reais ($11 billion) lawsuits against the companies.
The momentum has shifted in the legal battle that began with
a rupture and 3,000-barrel oil spill in November at a well
Transocean was drilling in Chevron's Frade field off the coast
of Rio. Another court took the two civil cases from Santos de
Oliveira in recent weeks.
The transfer of the criminal case comes on the heels of
another decision in favor of the companies last week from yet
another court, which denied a request by the prosecutor to bar
the two companies from operating in Brazil.
Today's decision, by Judge Elder Fernandes Luciano, affects
17 employees of the companies, including Chevron Brasil's chief
executive, George Buck. The employees face prison terms of up to
31 years if the case proceeds.
Luciano said the accident occurred outside national
territory involving a drilling rig under Liberian flag and
therefore falls under the jurisdiction of the state capital of
The transfer of the cases does not change the content of the
charges, but it removes them from Oliveira's turf and hands them
to another team of federal prosecutors.
"Chevron is pleased with the court decision," Chevron Corp's
head of media relations, Kurt Glaubitz, said in a statement.
Santos de Oliveira has said he would appeal the transfer of
the cases from his jurisdiction.
Chevron owns 52 percent of the Frade field. Brazil's
state-led oil company, Petrobras, owns 30 percent and
a Japanese group led by Inpex Corp and Sojitz Corp
owns 18 percent.
"We respect the court's decision," Guy Cantwell, the
director of communications for Transocean said by email. "Once
all of the facts are fully examined, they will demonstrate that
Transocean acted responsibly, appropriately and quickly last
November, putting safety first."