Lawyers for Total have asked a French court to acquit the oil giant over a December 1999 oil spill that killed some 75,000 birds off the western coast of France and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

The lawyers said French and international law shielded the company from any liability and insisted Total had been made a scapegoat. Total, one of France’s richest companies, faces charges of pollution and “complicity in endangering people and property.”

The “Erika,” a tanker leased by Total, was carrying fuel oil owned by a division of the company when it split in two and sank in rough seas on Dec. 12, 1999 off western France, spewing nearly 22,000 tons of oil into the Atlantic.

“In every major disaster that gets people emotional, a devil must be found,” said Total lawyer Daniel Soulez-Lariviere. “We are the devil.”

That’s a little honest for once, don’t you think..