The first criminal charges in the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico have been filed against a former BP engineer who is alleged to have destroyed evidence, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.

Disaster photos

Browse these collections of images from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill:

Kurt Mix of Texas was arrested on charges of intentionally destroying evidence. He faces two counts of obstruction of justice.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, killing 11 men and eventually spewing five million barrels, or about 795 million litres, of crude into the sea — the largest offshore oil spill in U.S history.

The Justice Department says the 50-year-old Mix is accused of deleting a string of 200 text messages with a BP supervisor in October 2010 that involved internal BP information about how efforts to cap the leaking well were failing.

BP officials did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment. The company was widely criticized as the disaster unfolded for underplaying how much oil was leaking into the waters off the Louisiana coast. Its CEO at the time, Tony Hayward, eventually apologized for the spill, and then stepped down.

On Wednesday, a U.S. federal judge in New Orleans is expected to consider a motion to approve a $7.8-billion US settlement between BP and a committee of plaintiffs in a civil case.

With files from CBC News