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LONDON: BP to plead guilty in gas leak court case — official

Oil major BP is expected to plead guilty in court on Friday to charges alleging...

Oil major BP is expected to plead guilty in court on Friday to charges alleging it exposed offshore workers to gas leaks over a four-year period, a court official said on Thursday.
"We've been told that BP will be pleading guilty," said Tim Room, acting list officer at Norwich crown court, where the long-delayed case is expected to be heard on Friday.

The plaintiff is the Health and Safety Executive, Britain's safety regulator. It alleges that offshore operator Amoco (U.K.) Exploration Co. "failed to insure so far as reasonably practicable that non-employees (or contract workers) were not exposed to risks to their safety."

The charge relates to leaks of natural gas from the Leman gas platform in the southern North Sea from Oct. 31, 1994 to Dec. 9, 1998.

BP, which was substituted into the case as defendant after it acquired Amoco in 1999, has previously stated it would plead not guilty to the charges. The court case has been postponed three times.

It is unclear what penalty BP will face if it is found guilty, but an HSE spokesman said it would almost certainly include the court costs of the safety regulator.

Last year, a court ordered BG Group, a U.K. oil and gas company, to pay about GBP500,000 in fines and legal costs after it was found guilty of not reporting a major gas leak at its Rough gas storage installation in the southern North Sea, not far from the Leman platform.

BP officials declined to comment on the case.