Judge approves BP's guilty plea, $5b in oil spill penalties

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A US judge has approved an agreement for British oil giant BP to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges and pay a record US$4 billion (S$4.9 billion) in criminal penalties for the company's role in the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP agreed in November to plead guilty to charges involving the deaths of 11 workers aboard the drilling rig that exploded and for lying to Congress.

Before ruling on Tuesday, a US district judge heard testimony from relatives of workers who died when BP's blown-out Macondo well triggered an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010.

More than 200 million gallons of oil spewed before the well was capped three months later. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in US history.