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US launches criminal probe into BP oil spill

Video by Valérie DEFERT , Luke SHRAGO

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-02

The US government has launched a criminal and civil investigation into BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, ratcheting up the pressure on the beleaguered British company.

AFP - The United States has launched both a civil and criminal investigation into the massive oil spill gushing out of a BP-leased rig, US Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.

"We will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who has violated the law," Holder told reporters in New Orleans. "We will not rest until justice is done."

Holder said the criminal probe began "some weeks ago" but declined to elaborate on what kind of charges could be laid.

Holder's remarks came hours after President Barack Obama Tuesday threatened legal action against those to blame for unleashing the nation's worst ever oil spill, as BP once again battled to stop the six-week leak.

"If our laws were broken leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region," Obama vowed.

Calling it the "greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history," Obama said the government had an "obligation" to find out what caused an explosion on the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20.

"If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change," Obama said in a statement in the White House Rose Garden, lashing what he said was lax regulation of the offshore oil industry.

"If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed.

"If our laws were broken leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region."

Holder noted that 11 workers were killed in the explosion and vowed that "we will not forget the price those workers paid."

A team of federal prosecutors have been working for weeks to "gather facts and coordinate the government's legal response" to the spill, Holder said.

The aim is to ensure that "every cent" of taxpayer money spent on the response is repaid; damages to the environment and wildlife is reimbursed; those responsible for the disaster clean up the mess they've made; and any violations of the law are prosecuted.

Holder said prosecutors are reviewing a "wide range of possible violations" of a number of statutes including: the Clean Water Act; the Oil Pollution Act; the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; the Endangered Species acts; and criminal statues.

Date created : 2010-06-01

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