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21 Jan 2020

Dom Phillips, The Guardian

Brazil prosecutors charge 16 people with murder in dam collapse that killed 270

Brazilian prosecutors have charged 16 people – including the former CEO of mining giant Vale – with murder and environmental crimes over the collapse of a tailings dam which killed 270 people on 25 January 2019.

The charges were announced by state prosecutors in Minas Gerais days before the first anniversary of the disaster, which sent a torrent of liquid mining waste across the picturesque countryside, flattening Vale’s plant, offices and canteen, and killing guests at a nearby countryside guesthouse.

Vale’s former CEO Fabio Schvarstman and 10 other employees were charged, along with five employees of German company TÜV SÜD.

Prosecutors said in a statement that there was a relationship of “pressure, collusion, rewards and conflict of interest between Vale and TÜV SÜD”. They alleged that Vale hid information about the dam’s instability to avoid hurting the company’s reputation, and TÜV SÜD issued reports saying it was safe.

“The object of these omissions was to avoid any negative reputational impacts to Vale that could affect its market value,” the prosecutor William Garcia told reporters on Tuesday. “TÜV SÜD and Vale systematically concealed from society, shareholders and investors the real gravity of the situation.”...

In separate statements, TÜV SÜD, Vale and a representative for Schvartsman told Reuters it was premature to assign fault for the rupture, given that other prosecutorial bodies were still looking into the matter.

TÜV SÜD said it was “deeply affected by the tragic collapse of the dam” and added: “The causes of the dam breach have still not been conclusively clarified.”

Vale said it would review all the details of the charges, adding that it found the fraud accusation “perplexing”.

Part of the following timelines

Brazil: Former Vale CEO charged with homicide for dam collapse, as TUV SUD is charged with environmental crimes

TÜV SÜD & Vale criminal lawsuit (re Brumadinho dam collapse, filed in Brazil)