BP to plead guilty to 14 criminal counts over Gulf of Mexico disaster

UK energy major, BP has  agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal counts, including manslaughter. BP would pay $4 billion over five years in a settlement with the justice department over the 20 April, 2010, drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people and brought about the worst offshore oil spill in US history, according to officials yesterday.

The fine comes as the largest criminal payment in US history, according to justice department officials, however BP still faced even bigger penalties from federal civil charges, including those under the Clean Water Act.

The Washington Post newspaper quoted a source as saying the oil giant had agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty in US history, amounting to billions of dollars, for the  spill in the Gulf of Mexico

While it required highly sophisticated technology to drill and cap an oil well in deep water, cleaning up the spill mostly involved tedious manual labour.

The justice department also held two persons responsible for the disaster, bringing manslaughter charges against two BP rig supervisors and obstruction charges against a BP executive who allegedly lied to Congress. The BP settlement does not cover the three individuals.

''I hope this sends a clear message to those who would engage in this wanton misconduct that there will be a penalty paid,'' attorney general Eric H Holder Jr said during a news conference in New Orleans yesterday.