LONDON // British oil giant BP has agreed to pay US$4.5 billion (Dh16.52bn), the largest criminal penalty in United States history, for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a person familiar with the deal said yesterday.
The person said that two BP employees face manslaughter charges over the death of 11 people in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the massive spill.
The person added that BP will plead guilty to obstruction for lying to the US Congress about how much oil was pouring out of the ruptured well.
The largest previous corporate criminal penalty assessed by the department of justice was a $1.2bn fine imposed on drug maker Pfizer in 2009.
BP said that the proposed settlement would not include civil claims under the clean water act and other legislation, pending private civil claims and state claims for economic loss.
The Deepwater Horizon rig, 80 kilometres off the Louisiana coast, sank after the April 2010 explosion.
The ruptured well spewed millions of barrels of crude oil into the sea, soiled sensitive tidal estuaries and beaches, killed wildlife and shut vast areas of the Gulf of Mexico to commercial fishing.
The spill exposed lax government oversight and led to a temporary ban on deepwater drilling while officials and the oil industry studied the risks, worked to make it safer and developed better disaster plans.
BP's environmentally friendly image was tarnished, and independent gas station owners who fly the BP flag claimed they lost business from customers who were upset over the spill.
The BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, stepped down after the company's repeated gaffes, including his statement at the height of the crisis: "I'd like my life back."
* With Bloomberg