WASHINGTON - A U.S. judge cut 10 years off the prison sentence of disgraced former Enron chief executive Jeff Skilling on Friday after he spent years fighting his original 24-year jail term for fraud.

But he was also ordered to forfeit $42 million to be used to compensate victims of the Enron debacle, who include employees who saw their pension savings wiped out.

Skilling, who led the high-flying energy and trading conglomerate before its disastrous collapse in 2001, was resentenced in a federal court in Houston, the Justice Department said.

The announcement came weeks after a deal to cut his sentence and end the legal battle over it was reached in May.

"The sentence handed down today ends years of litigation, imposes significant punishment upon the defendant and precludes him from ever challenging his conviction or sentence," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman in a statement.

"With today's court action, victims of Skilling's crimes will finally receive more than $40 million that he owes them."

Skilling was convicted on multiple counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, insider trading and making false statements to auditors on May 25, 2006.

But he fought the 24-year sentence, earning appeals court support for his argument that the original judge went too far in setting the punishment, based on the parameters of the law.

In its statement Friday, the Justice Department reiterated that Skilling had taken part in a scheme to deceive the public and U.S. securities regulators about the problems in Enron's businesses.

"The scheme was designed to make it appear that Enron was growing at a healthy and predictable rate" and artificially push up its share price, the department said.

In fact, the company had deep cash-flow problems and investment losses, and collapsed like a house of cards when the U.S. economy turned downward in 2001.

"The fraud scheme eventually unraveled, and Enron filed for bankruptcy in December 2001, making its stock virtually worthless," it said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013