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BP agrees to pay $4.5 billion; 3 employees charged

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A day of reckoning arrived for BP on Thursday as the oil giant agreed to plead guilty to a raft of criminal charges and pay a record $4.5 billion in a settlement with the government over the deadly 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Three BP employees were also charged, two of them with manslaughter.

The settlement and the indictments came 21⁄2 years after the drilling-rig explosion that killed 11 workers and set off the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The settlement includes nearly $1.3 billion in fines — the biggest criminal penalty in U.S. history — along with payments to entities inside and outside government. As part of the deal, BP will plead guilty to charges related to the deaths of the 11 workers and to lying to Congress.

“We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders,” said Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP chairman. “It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims.”

Also, BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine were indicted on manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter charges, accused of disregarding abnormal high-pressure readings that should have glaring indications of trouble just before the deadly blowout.

In addition, David Rainey, who was BP’s vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico at the time, was indicted on charges of obstruction of Congress and making false statements. Prosecutors said he withheld information from Congress that indicated the amount of oil spewing from BP’s blown-out well was greater than he let on.

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