Oil giant BP and three of its employees were indicted on criminal charges including manslaughter and obstruction of Congress on top of a record $4-billion fine that the company will pay the government for its role in the oil spill disaster that scarred the Gulf of Mexico, officials announced Thursday.
Led by Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., officials announced the indictments in a televised news conference from New Orleans, where the grand jury has been investigating the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the Louisiana coast. Eleven people died in the explosion.
The announcement of the charges against BP employees came on the same day officials announced that BP had agreed to an unprecedented settlement involving a guilty plea to criminal charges.
“The $4 billion in penalties and fines is the single largest criminal resolution in the history of the United States and constitutes a major achievement toward fulfilling a promise that the Justice Department made nearly two years ago to respond to the consequences of this epic environmental disaster and seek justice on behalf of its victims,” Holder said.
In addition, BP agreed to pay more than $525 million in civil penalties to satisfy complaints by the Securities and Exchange Commission. That brings the total settlement cost to more than $4.5 billion – not including the billions the company has already paid to settle civil claims from residents, fishermen and businesses harmed by the spill.
The settlement of the criminal charges by the company still leaves BP open to civil cases, officials said. The federal government is also seeking civil penalties in the billions of dollars against the company, arguing that BP was grossly negligent during the oil spill, which poured about 4 million barrels of oil from the underwater Macondo well into the gulf waters. A trial is scheduled in February and BP, in a statement released Thursday, said it will continue to vigorously defend itself from civil actions.
Federal officials blamed BP’s culture of profit for the spill.
For more on this story, click here.