It is the first time in connection with the environmental disaster that a party involved is to be prosecuted.
According to the ministry, the former employee is alleged to have deleted several hundred text messages on his smartphone, some of which were about the oil spill, against the instructions of lawyers and BP itself. They also contained early indications of the failure of an attempt to plug the leak at the bottom of the sea with a heavy mud mixture.
According to the ministry, the accused exchanged information in the text messages with a superior and a BP contractor with whom he had cooperated in the assessment of the oil spill. The messages were deleted at intervals of just over ten months, most recently in august 2011.
The engineer is now to answer for obstruction of justice in two cases. If found guilty, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to 250,000 dollars (about 190,000 euros) for each count, according to the ministry.
BP did not comment directly on the accusations against the former employee. In a statement on tuesday, however, it was stressed that it was the company’s "clear" policy to preserve evidence. BP is cooperating with authorities in the investigation.
At the explosion of the oil platform "deepwater horizon" on 20. April 2010, eleven people had lost their lives. Up to 4.9 million barrels (159 liters each) of oil spilled into the sea for 87 days. Whole stretches of coastline have been polluted, the fishing and tourist industries have been badly hit.
A task force with representatives from various U.S. Agencies is investigating whether criminal conduct contributed to the disaster. The investigation was continued, explained minister of justice eric holder. The panel will "hold accountable those who violated the law in connection with the worst environmental disaster in U.S. History.". In addition to the investigations by the working group, civil proceedings are underway to determine any compensation payments.