Sunday, March 18, 2012

Only (NOT!) In America: This Is How It's Done Against Criminal Oil Companies

A reminder to the "only in America" triumphalists: One democracy on this planet which does not have a corrupt oil lobby running its government, did in four months what the U.S. Justice Department and the courts have failed to do going on two years, regarding the BP Gulf oil spill — bring civil and imminent criminal charges against the principals.
Brazil Bars Oil Workers From Leaving After Spill

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Brazilian court has ordered 17 employees from two American companies, the oil giant Chevron and the rig operator Transocean, to surrender their passports, barring them from leaving Brazil as authorities prepare to file criminal charges in coming days in connection with an offshore oil spill involving the companies.

The ruling by Judge Vlamir Costa Magalhães, issued late Friday night, adds to Chevron’s woes in Brazil, which began in November when oil was found to be leaking from an offshore field controlled by Chevron. Prosecutors have already filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages of 20 billion reais, or about $11.2 billion, from the company.

Brazil’s Navy and Chevron said Friday that they had detected a new sheen of oil from the same field where the earlier spill occurred.

Chevron’s legal battle here points to the high stakes involved in Brazil’s plans to tap its huge offshore oil fields. If Brazil meets its ambitious production targets, by the 2020s, the country may rank among the world’s largest oil producers, with output rivaling or surpassing traditional oil powers like Iran or Venezuela.

But achieving those goals requires companies to drill in immensely challenging offshore conditions. Pointing to the example of BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental officials here say that stiff penalties are needed against Chevron in order to pressure it and other companies to adopt strict procedures for preventing and dealing with spills. (Emphasis mine.)
Notice that the same oil rig operator involved in the BP oil spill, Transocean, has its oily criminal malpractice fingerprints all over this spill. Chevron corporate asswipes immediately started whining that this was "a tiny fraction" of the BP oil spill and therefore an "overreaction" by Brazilian authorities. Aww ... Hey, Ali asshole: complaining to Rupie's Wall Street Journal gets you nowhere in Brazil.
Chevron, the foreign oil company with the largest operations in Brazil, has argued that the country’s response to the November spill, which was a tiny fraction of the size of the 2010 BP spill, was an “overreaction.”

“I’ve never seen a spill this small with this size of reaction,” Ali Moshiri, the head of Chevron’s Latin America operations, told the Wall Street Journal in late 2011.

Such comments did not seem to sit well in Brazil. Authorities accused Chevron of lying about the scope of the November spill. And the news media lambasted 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 preventing 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 for environmental crimes could result in prison terms of 20 years for each defendant.
See, relying on the old translator trick won't fly in Brazil. My dad once told me about this: Foreigners in the hot seat who speak the native language fluently will pretend they don't, turning instead to their "translator" so they have more time to craft some weasely nonresponsive reply to tough questioning. It pisses Brazilians off, who pride themselves, culturally, in knowing every trick in (and out of) the book. I love how the judge confiscated their passports, barring Buck and his cabal from leaving Brazil. They shouldn't complain. Here in the U.S. some poor sap without corporate legal resources or a personal fortune who is deemed a "flight risk" is immediately thrown in the slammer. In Brazil, these dudes have their run of wine, women and good eats while awaiting trial.

Of course, if found guilty, the jail terms of up to 20 years won't be quite so pleasant. Here's la difference: Brazil is a democratic republic, just like the U.S., with a thriving, dynamic capitalist economy, and an immensely popular socialist government. There the government places the people ahead of corporations because, you see, corporations aren't people in Brazil. It's not perfect, but one could say they've learned from the American experience — what not to do.

No comments: