A Brazilian court has ordered 17 employees at Chevron and Transocean, both American companies, to surrender their passports and remain in Brazil pending criminal charges in connection with an offshore oil spill that occurred last November.
According to The New York Times, prosecutors have already filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages of about $11.2 billion. Criminal charges are expected to be filed either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Cleveland Jones, an oil specialist and geology professor at Rio de Janeiro State University said lawmakers were overreacting as the spill is "far from the coast, and it's a small volume."
Jones also said that seepages are common in the region, and this particular one didn't do much damage to the environment.
Ali Moshiri, who is in charge of Chevron's Latin America operations, had a similar reaction.
In late 2011, he told The Wall Street Journal that he had never seen " a spill this small with this size of reaction."
Chevron spokesman, Kurt Glaubitz, said Chevron is prepared to defend itself and its employees.
Glaubitz wrote an email stating Chevron stopped the flow of oil four days after it started spilling, and that the company "continues to make significant progress in containing any residual oil."
A spokesman for Trasocean said the company had no comment at this time.
Judge Vlamir Costa Magalhaes issued the order forcing the employees to stay in Brazil.
"The executives appear to have foreign citizenship or financial conditions and clear motives to want to leave the country," Costa Magalhaes said. "Their departure at this time, and under the current circumstances, would pose great risk to the investigation and the eventual application of the criminal law," he said.
The court's decision came a day after the Brazilian navy noticed a new oil stain from the site where the oil spill occurred.
Prosecutor Santos de Oliveira said the "ongoing oil leaks provide evidence of irreversible damage," Reuters reports.
Brazil's oil regulator, ANP said it was investigating the new leaks, but had found no evidence that there was any cause for alarm as they are not growing in volume.
George Buck, an American who heads Chevron's Brazilian chapter, is one of the executives being detained in Brazil, The Wall Street Journal reports.