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Petrobras to Face Criminal Case, Brazilian Prosecutor Says

A Brazilian federal prosecutor plans to file a criminal case against Petroleo Brasileiro SA for polluting the Atlantic Ocean with fuels from a refinery.

Petrobras, as the state-controlled producer is known, spilled petroleum products into the sea from the Duque de Caxias refinery in Rio de Janeiro state and “everything indicates this occurred constantly,” Prosecutor Renato Machado said by telephone from Rio de Janeiro. The case will be filed “in the next few weeks,” he said.

The case comes as Chevron Corp. faces two civil suits of 20 billion reais ($9.86 billion) each and a criminal case filed by a different federal prosecutor following spills in November and March at the offshore Frade field, where Petrobras is a minority partner. The criminal case is before an appeals court, which ordered Chevron and rig operator Transocean Ltd. to suspend all operations in Brazil. While that order isn’t yet in effect, Chevron voluntarily halted activities in March.

The investigation into Petrobras’s refinery started last year and was ended last month, Machado said. He has ordered a second investigation into damages from the spills for a possible civil complaint, he said.

Petrobras respects both Brazilian and international environmental laws, the company said in an e-mailed statement. Fluids from the Duque de Caxias refinery are treated according to the law, according to the statement.

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