BP has agreed to cough up $4.5bn (£2.8bn) in penalties and plead guilty to no less than 14 counts of criminal misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Last night it was also reported that two BP workers have been indicted on manslaughter charges and an ex-manager charged with misleading Congress.
The admission of guilt and the record fine – the biggest criminal penalty in US legal history – are part of a settlement with American authorities that will resolve all federal criminal charges linked to the worst offshore oil spill in the country's history. Eleven workers were killed and nearly five million barrels of crude oil leaked into Gulf of Mexico as a result of an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast in April 2010.
The settlement will also put an end to claims by the Securities & Exchange Commission, the US market regulator.
The oil giant continues to face civil claims from federal, state and local authorities, with the case due to go to trial in February.
Announcing the criminal settlement yesterday, Bob Dudley, who took charge of the business after the spill led to Tony Hayward's ousting from the chief executive's suite, apologised for the company's role in the devastating spill.
"We have accepted responsibility for our actions," he said, as the FTSE 100-listed business pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts related to the lives lost and one felony count linked to obstruction of Congress, along with two misdemeanours.
David Vitter, the junior US Senator from Louisiana, urged the Obama administration to be "equally aggressive in securing civil monies" to help coastal communities hit by the spill. BP declined to comment on any criminal indictments that might arise.
During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP's then chief executive was widely condemned when he said: "There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I'd like my life back." He later apologised.