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United States

BP settles on record Deepwater Horizon fine

Oil giant BP has agreed to pay the largest criminal fine in US history in a settlement on damages from the 2010 rig explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Shorelines from Texas to Florida were hit by the slick.

On Thursday, British Petroleum announced that it would pay aggregated penalties worth $4.5 billion (3.5 billion euros) as part of a settlement with the US government over the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion of 2010.

In this April 21, 2010 photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, fire boat response crews spray water on the burning remnants of BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. (Photo via AP)

Eleven BP employees were killed in the blast that triggered the spill

BP announced that the company would plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect relating to the death of 11 workers in the explosion, one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act, another under the Migratory Bird Treaty and another for obstruction of Congress.

The fines would be paid over a period of six years, the oil giant announced.

The charges easily eclipse a $1.3 billion fine handed to the pharmaceutical company Pfizer for marketing fraud in 2009, previously the largest criminal fine in US history.

Worst spill in history

In the 87 days following the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed into the sea, ultimately hitting shorelines from Texas to Florida. The spill, stemming from the underwater Macondo well, was larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. The depth of the well caused difficulties plugging the leak, with BP undertaking several failed attempts before succeeding.

BP replaced its chief executive and saw stock prices plummet during the lengthy procedure.

Thursday's settlement does not include civil fines or lawsuits filed by individual US states in the Gulf - with these charges likely to be more costly for BP. The company has so far sold non-core assets worth over $35 billion in preparation for the financial fallout from Deepwater Horizon.

BP posted buoyant quarterly figures last month, recording a 7.7 percent year-on-year bump in net profit for the July-September period and increasing shareholder dividends as a result. The company's 2011 turnover stood at $386.4 billion.

msh/mz (AFP, dpa, Reuters)