Erik Prince, whose former mercenary firm Blackwater gained infamy during the Iraq War for incidents involving civilian casualties, is under investigation in the U.S. for attempting to provide military services to foreign governments, including Libya, according to a report in The Intercept published Thursday.
Citing interviews with several of Mr. Prince’s past and present business partners, as well as former U.S. intelligence officials and individuals familiar with the matter, the Department of Justice is said to be reviewing whether the Blackwater founder tried to broker illegal deals with foreign governments, laundering money in the process, the website reported.
Mr. Prince, who founded Blackwater — since renamed Academi — in 1997, gained notoriety when security contractors employed by his company killed 17 Iraqi civilians during a 2007 assault in Baghdad. Four of his guards were later convicted in U.S. court of either murder or manslaughter charges as a result of that incident.
More recently, Mr. Prince has “sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services,” The Intercept reported.
While Mr. Prince denied any knowledge of a federal investigation, The Intercept reported that American authorities are considering whether he had used his current company, Frontier Services Group, to sell defense services in Libya. In the midst of that investigation, the Justice Department reportedly broadened its scope after allegations surfaced suggested Mr. Prince had been aided by Chinese intelligence in attempting to broker the deal.
The Justice Department declined to comment when reached by the Intercept, and a lawyer for Mr. Prince, Victoria Toensing, said that the money-laundering allegations are “total bull [expletive].”
Nevertheless, sources close to Mr. Prince told The Intercept that U.S. intelligence began monitoring the former Blackwater chief’s communications and movements more than a year ago, and eventually piqued the interest of federal prosecutors.
A former intel official told The Intercept that Mr. Prince had opened up an account allegedly with the Bank of China as recently as January “for the purpose of what is considered now — in the investigation — money laundering on behalf of the Libyans.”
“Money laundering for Libyan officials using a Chinese bank — that is the issue that pushed it over the edge” for the Justice Department, the intel official said.