US opens criminal investigation into oil spill

APTOPIX Gulf Oil Spill

AFP, June 1st 2010.

US officials said Tuesday they launched a criminal probe into the nation’s worst ever oil spill as BP voiced hopes of capping the six-week-old Gulf of Mexico leak soon.

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

As shares in the British energy giant plunged Tuesday, losing 13 percent and wiping off 12 billion pounds (17.6 billion dollars) off its market value, Holder said the criminal probe began “some weeks ago.”

But he declined to elaborate on what kind of charges could be brought and against whom.

Holder was speaking after touring the region to witness the damage caused by the spill, triggered when an explosion ripped through the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, sinking it two days later.

“What we saw this morning was oil for miles and miles. Oil that we know has already affected plant and animal life along the coast, and has impacted the lives and livelihoods of all too many in this region,” he said.

US President Barack Obama also threatened to take legal action against those to blame, saying the government had an “obligation” to determine the cause of the “greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history.”

“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.

BP’s chief operating officer Doug Suttles said the company now hoped to cap the rig’s fractured pipe on Wednesday, thanks to a new operation launched Tuesday.

“If everything goes well, within the next 24 hours, we could have this contained,” Suttles said in Louisiana.

But when asked later by Fox News about whether BP had broken any laws, Suttles replied: “I have no idea.”

Original Article