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Oil spill settlement chief says BP fraud claims 'unfounded'

Aug. 27, 2013 at 11:36 AM

NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The administrator of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill claims settlement program has rejected as "unfounded" allegations by BP the program is riddled with fraud.

In court filings, attorneys for Patrick Juneau responded to the allegations, calling them "broad, unfounded criticisms of the program's internal controls and fraud detection processes," The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Tuesday.

BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on Aug. 5 to suspend the program until former FBI director Louis Freeh could complete an investigation of the fraud allegations.

Barbier had rejected an earlier BP request to suspend the payments, saying the British oil producer provided no evidence payments had been made improperly.

BP has increased its estimate of the cost of the settlement program put in place after the record 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 oil rig workers and leaked more than 200 million gallons of crude into the gulf from $7.8 billion to at least $9.6 billion.

Juneau told the court his staff and an independent firm hired to investigate fraud had not been able to corroborate BP's claims of widespread fraud at a processing center in Mobile, Ala.

"Ultimately, BP asks the court to safeguard it from imagined harm at the expense of the settlement claimants without submitting any evidence that it has paid or will have to pay any improper claims as a result of the issues raised in its renewed motion," Juneau said in the response.

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