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BP agrees to record criminal penalties for US oil spill

BP Plc will pay $4.5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to felony misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which caused the worst US offshore oil spill ever.

The settlement includes a $1.256 billion criminal fine, the largest such levy in US history, the oil company said today.

US Attorney General Eric Holder called the deal a "critical step forward" but was adamant that it did not end the government's criminal investigation of the spill.

The government also indicted the two highest-ranking BP supervisors aboard the Deepwater Horizon during the disaster, charging them with 23 criminal counts including manslaughter.

The April 2010 explosion on the rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers. The mile-deep (1.6 km) Macondo oil well then spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over 87 days, fouling shorelines from Texas to Florida and eclipsing in severity the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

The company said it would plead guilty to 11 felony counts related to the workers' deaths, a felony related to obstruction of Congress and two misdemeanors.

It also faces five years' probation and the imposition of two monitors who will oversee its process safety and ethics for the next four years.

US-listed BP shares gained about 0.3 percent today while its London-traded shares were flat.

BP, which replaced its chief executive after the spill as its market value plummeted, still faces economic and environmental damage claims sought by four Gulf Coast states and other private plaintiffs.

"It certainly is an encouraging step," said Pavel Molchanov, oil company analyst with Raymond James. "By eliminating the overhang of the criminal litigation, it is another step in clearing up BP's legal framework as it relates to Macondo."

The disaster has dragged BP from second to a distant fourth in the ranking of top Western oil companies by value.

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Tags:  bp  british petroleum  us  oil spill  felony  deepwater horizon  penalties  fine  





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