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LONDON (Reuters) – Hopes BP can settle early out of court on liability for its 2010 U.S. Gulf oil spill looked forlorn on Wednesday after U.S. prosecutors laid out a legal case for gross negligence on which tens of billions of dollars hang.

In the two years that have passed since the spewing Macondo deepwater well was capped, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has made it clear BP may have a gross negligence case to answer – implying a potential $21 billion fine on top of other payments, some already made, others yet to be determined.

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