Colombia’s Inspector General said Thursday that he will investigate the CEO of state-run oil company Ecopetrol over an oil spill that causes a natural disaster.
The oil czar, Felipe Bayon, and his predecessor, Juan Carlos Echeverry, will be investigated for neglect over an oil spill that left 70 people homeless and caused major environmental damage in March.
The company’s development and production director, the regional director for central Colombia and Ecopetrol’s operations chief were suspended.
Ecopetrol came under fire in March after it took weeks to respond to an oil spill in Barrancabermeja, Santander, that seemed due to the company’s neglect of abandoned wells.
The spill of approximately 550 barrels of crude oil killed at least 2,400 animals, ruined the plots of nearby farmers and poisoned a river for miles downstream.
Bayon and Echeverry, a former finance minister, will have to explain why the company failed to carry out standard maintenance procedures and why Ecopetrol took three weeks to respond to the spill.
Local media reported that Echeverry left last year after leading the company into a major crisis between 2015 and his resignation.
In response to dropping oil prices, the economist went on a privatization binge and embarked on major cuts, and still drove up the company’s debt from $623 million to $15 billion.
Between the arrival and resignation of the former minister. stocks lost 33.5% of their value on the New York Stock Exchange, according to news website Las 2 Orillas.
Bayon inherited the struggling company in August last year and was criticized about the company’s response to the oil spill.
Ecopetol allegedly lied to the public about controlling the oil spill one day after a pipe broke on an abandoned project on March 3.
The company failed to call in reinforcement until locals began sharing videos on social media, demonstrating how the oil spill was out of control, destroying nearby farmland and polluting local rivers.
Multiple authorities announced investigations.