BP's record $4bn Deepwater criminal penalties approved

The fire at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused one of the worst oil spills in history

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A US court has approved the biggest criminal penalties in US history given to British oil giant BP as part of a settlement related to the fatal 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

In November, BP said it would pay $4bn (£2.5bn) to the US Department of Justice and agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges.

The sum included a $1.26bn fine.

The Deepwater Horizon incident was one of the worst environmental disasters in US history.

It killed 11 workers and released millions of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days.

At the latest hearing Luke Keller, a Vice President of BP America, told the court, the families of the dead, and other victims of the tragedy of the company's regret and apologised for its role in the Deepwater Horizon accident.

"We - and by that I mean the men and the women of the management of BP, its board of directors, and its many employees - are deeply sorry for the tragic loss of the 11 men who died and the others who were injured that day," said Mr Keller.

"Our guilty plea makes clear, BP understands and acknowledges its role in that tragedy, and we apologise - BP apologises - to all those injured and especially to the families of the lost loved ones.

"BP is also sorry for the harm to the environment that resulted from the spill, and we apologise to the individuals and communities who were injured."

Two BP workers have been indicted on manslaughter charges and an ex-manager charged with misleading Congress.

The oil giant has been selling assets worth billions of pounds to raise money to settle all claims. The company is expected to make a final payment of $860m into the $20bn Gulf of Mexico compensation fund by the end of the year.

The resolution with the DoJ includes a record criminal fine of $1.26bn, as well as $2.4bn to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $350m to be paid to the National Academy of Sciences, over a period of five years.

"Today's guilty plea and sentencing represent a significant step forward in the Justice Department's ongoing efforts to seek justice on behalf of those affected by one of the worst environmental disasters in American history," said US Attorney General Eric Holder.

"I'm pleased to note that more than half of this landmark resolution - which totals $4bn in penalties and fines, and represents the single largest criminal resolution ever - will help to provide direct support to Gulf Coast residents as communities throughout the region continue to recover and rebuild."

BP will also pay an $525m to the Securities and Exchange Commission over a period of three years.

Other companies involved included Transocean, the owner of the rig and responsible for the safety valve known as the blowout preventer, and Halliburton, who provided cementing services.

BP is yet to reach a settlement with these firms. A civil trial that will determine negligence is due to begin in New Orleans in February.

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