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Halliburton agrees to guilt in destroying Deepwater Horizon evidence

The cement contractor for BP oil's Deepwater Horizon rig has agreed to plead guilty to criminal responsibility for destroying evidence. The 2010 blast killed 11 rig workers and caused the worst oil spill in US history.

Halliburton signed a guilty plea agreement for destroying evidence related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to a statement released by the US Department of Justice. The construction company issued a similar press release confirming the details of the plea.

Under the agreement for "one misdemeanor violation associated with the deletion of records created after the [spill]," a Halliburton subsidiary would "pay the statutory maximum fine of $200,000 (150,623 euros) and accept a term of three years probation," the company said on its website on Thursday.

The subsidiary would also donate $55 million to the government-sponsored National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a decision made separately from the legal agreement, it said.

On April 20, 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig - stationed at the Macondo well site 45 miles (72 kilometers) off the coast of the US state Louisiana - exploded as the result of a failed well. Eleven workers died in the blast and subsequent fire. The blown-out well gushed more than 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico before BP was able to successfully cap it on July 15, 85 days after the incident.

Group destroys records

The Department of Justice's statement detailed the incidents which led to the criminal charge.

In May 2010, Halliburton conducted a computer simulation of the construction of the well in order to determine whether its design had contributed to the disaster. BP had used only six centralizers, declining to follow Halliburton's recommendation of using 21. Centralizers are the stabilizing metal collars spaced along the heavy metal pipes to keep them centered and away from the surrounding walls.

According to the internal working group's simulations in 2010, the number of centralizers made little difference.

"[The] Program Manager was directed to, and did, destroy these results," the Department of Justice's statement said.

The deleted records could not be recovered by investigators.

Under the agreement, which is still subject to court approval, Halliburton and its subsidiaries will not be subjected to further criminal prosecution by the US Justice Department related to the ongoing Deepwater Horizon case.

kms/slk (AP, AFP, dpa)