[News] Is Blackwater Moving to the United Arab Emirates to Escape From the Law?

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Fri Jun 18 18:57:40 EDT 2010



Is Blackwater's Erik Prince Moving to the United 
Arab Emirates to Escape From the Law?




By Jeremy Scahill, TheNation.com
Posted on June 15, 2010, Printed on June 18, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/147210/

Sources close to Blackwater and its secretive 
owner Erik Prince claim that the embattled head 
of the world's most infamous mercenary firm is 
planning to move to the United Arab Emirates 
(UAE). The Middle Eastern nation, a major hub for 
the US war industry, has no extradition treaty 
with the United States. In April, five of 
Prince's top deputies were hit with a 
<http://www.justice.gov/usao/nce/press/2010-apr-16_2.html>15-count 
indictment by a federal Grand Jury on conspiracy, 
weapons and obstruction of justice charges. Among 
those indicted were Prince's longtime number two 
man, former Blackwater president Gary Jackson, 
former vice presidents William Matthews and Ana 
Bundy, and Prince's former legal counsel Andrew Howell.

The Blackwater/Erik Prince saga took yet another 
dramatic turn last week, when Prince abruptly 
<http://www.thenation.com/blog/blackwater-sale>announced 
that he was putting his company up for sale.

While Prince has not personally been charged with 
any crimes, federal investigators and several 
Congressional committees clearly have his company 
and inner circle in their sights. The Nation 
learned of Prince's alleged plans to move to the 
UAE from three separate sources. One Blackwater 
source told The Nation that Prince intends to 
sell his company quickly, saying the "sale is 
going to be a fast move within a couple of months."

Mark Corallo, a trusted Prince advisor and 
Blackwater spokesperson would neither confirm nor 
deny the allegation that Prince is planning to 
move to the United Arab Emirates. "I have a 
policy on not discussing my client’s personal 
lives – especially when that client is a private 
citizen," Corallo, who runs his own crisis 
management and PR 
<http://www.corallocomstock.com/>firm, said in an 
email to The Nation. "It is nobody’s business 
where Mr. Prince (or anyone else) chooses to 
live. So I’m afraid I will not be able to confirm any rumors."

A source with knowledge of the federal criminal 
probe into Blackwater's activities told The 
Nation that none of Prince's indicted colleagues 
have flipped on Prince since being formally 
charged, but rumors abound in Blackwater and 
legal circles that Prince may one day find 
himself in legal trouble. Former Blackwater 
employees claim they have provided federal 
prosecutors with testimony about what they allege 
is Prince's involvement in illegal activity.

If Prince's rumored future move is linked to 
concerns over possible indictment, the United 
Arab Emirates would be an interesting choice for 
a new home--particularly because it does not have 
an extradition treaty with the US. "If Prince 
were not living in the US, it would be far more 
complicated for US prosecutors to commence an 
action against him," says 
<http://harpers.org/subjects/NoComment>Scott 
Horton, a Columbia University Law lecturer and 
international law expert who has long tracked 
Blackwater. "There is a long history of people 
thwarting prosecutors simply by living overseas." 
The UAE, Horton says, is "definitely a 
jurisdiction where Prince could count on it not 
being simple for the US to pursue him legally."

The UAE is made up of seven states, the most 
powerful among them being Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 
Since 9/11, they have emerged as hubs for the US 
war industry. "Global service providers" account 
for some three-quarters of Dubai's GDP, while oil 
represents only 3 percent. "They have established 
themselves as the premiere location in the Middle 
East for off-shore banking and professional 
services," says Horton, who has legal experience 
in the UAE. "If you have connections to the royal 
families, then the law doesn't really apply to 
you. I would be very surprised if Erik Prince 
does not have those kinds of connections there."

As a matter of policy the Justice Department will 
not discuss possible investigations of people who 
have not yet been charged with a crime.

Two former employees made serious allegations 
against Prince last August in 
<http://www.thenation.com/article/blackwater-founder-implicated-murder>sworn 
declarations filed as part of a civil lawsuit 
against Prince and Blackwater. One former 
employee alleged that Prince turned a profit by 
transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into 
Iraq on his private planes. A four-year employee 
of Blackwater, identified in his declaration as 
"John Doe #2," stated that "it appears that Mr. 
Prince and his employees murdered, or had 
murdered, one or more persons who have provided 
information, or who were planning to provide 
information, to the federal authorities about the 
ongoing criminal conduct." He also stated that 
"Mr. Prince feared, and continues to fear, that 
the federal authorities will detect and prosecute 
his various criminal deeds," adding: "On more 
than one occasion, Mr. Prince and his top 
managers gave orders to destroy emails and other 
documents. Many incriminating videotapes, 
documents and emails have been shredded and destroyed."

John Doe #2's identity was concealed in the sworn 
declaration because he "fear[s] violence against 
me in retaliation for submitting this 
Declaration." He also alleged, "On several 
occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince's 
employ, Mr. Prince's management has personally 
threatened me with death and violence." Doe #2 
stated in his declaration that he provided the 
information contained in his statement "in grand 
jury proceedings convened by the United States Department of Justice."

Prince is also facing civil lawsuits brought by 
Iraqi victims of Blackwater. Among these is a 
suit filed in North Carolina by the family of 
nine-year-old 
<http://www.thenation.com/article/blackwaters-youngest-victim>Ali 
Kinani. Kinani's family alleges he was shot in 
the head and killed by Blackwater operatives in 
the infamous Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad in 
2007. Earlier this year, Prince 
<http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2010/01/blackwater-201001?printable=true>claimed 
he was spending $2 million a month in legal fees 
and on what he described as a “giant 
proctological exam” by nearly a dozen federal agencies.

Even if prosecutors believed they had enough 
evidence to charge Prince with a crime, because 
of the classified nature of some of Blackwater 
and Prince's work for the CIA and other agencies 
of the US government, prosecuting him could prove 
challenging. Prince has deep knowledge of covert 
US actions that the US government or military may 
not want public, which could be revealed as part 
of a potential defense Prince could offer. 
Blackwater--and Prince specifically--long worked 
on the CIA's assassination program.

Some observers believe that Prince has already 
engaged in 
"<http://www.thenation.com/article/erik-prince-graymailing-us-government>graymail" 
by revealing some details of his classified work 
for the CIA and military, specifically in a 
January 2010 
<http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2010/01/blackwater-201001?printable=true>article 
in Vanity Fair, written by a former CIA lawyer. 
Graymail is a legal tactic that has been used for 
years by intelligence operatives or assets who 
are facing prosecution or fear they soon will be. 
In short, these operatives or assets threaten to 
reveal details of sensitive or classified 
operations in order to ward off indictments or 
criminal charges, based on the belief that the 
government would not want these details revealed.

After Jackson and the other former Blackwater 
executives were indicted, their lawyers 
<http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/04/22/448778/blackwater-exec-blames-feds.html>claimed 
that the US government approved of their conduct. 
"All of this was with the knowledge of, the 
request of, for the convenience of, an agency of 
the U.S. government," Jackson's lawyer Ken Bell 
told the judge during a bond hearing in April. 
Bell did not reveal which agency he was referring 
to and did not answer questions from reporters.

The latest developments in the Blackwater story 
come after a two-year campaign by Blackwater to 
<http://www.alternet.org/blogs/waroniraq/126863/>rebrand 
itself as "Xe Services" and the "US Training 
Center." In March 2009, Prince 
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-scahill/mercenary-king-erik-princ_b_171105.html>announced 
he was stepping down as CEO of the company, 
though he has remained its sole owner. While 
Blackwater continues to be a significant player 
in US operations in Afghanistan under the Obama 
administration--working for the State Department, 
Defense Department and CIA--it is facing 
increased 
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/08/AR2010030803706.html>scrutiny 
on Capitol Hill and continued pressure from the Justice Department.

On June 11, federal prosecutors filed a massive 
brief in their appeal of last year's 
<http://www.thenation.com/article/federal-judge-dismisses-all-charges-iraq-massacre>dismissal 
by a federal judge of manslaughter charges 
against the Blackwater operatives alleged to be 
the "shooters" at Nisour Square. In the brief, 
prosecutors asked that the indictment of the 
Blackwater men be reinstated. Meanwhile, two 
other Blackwater operatives were 
<http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/January/10-crm-011.html>indicted 
in January on 
<http://rebelreports.com/post/322008047/two-blackwater-guards-arrested-by-fbi-on-murder-charges>murder 
charges stemming from a shooting in Afghanistan 
in May 2008. Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Senate 
Armed Services Committee has 
<http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/release.cfm?id=322765>called 
on the Justice Department to investigate 
Blackwater's use of a shell company, Paravant, to 
win training contracts in Afghanistan.

Blackwater has been spending heavily this year on 
lobbyists--particularly Democratic ones. In the 
first quarter of 2010, the company 
<http://www.thenation.com/blog/bipartisan-mercs-blackwater-hires-powerful-democratic-lobbyist>spent 
more than $500,000 for the services of 
<http://www.cov.com/seizenstat/>Stuart Eizenstat, 
a well-connected Democratic lobbyist who served 
in the Clinton and Carter Administrations. 
Eizenstat heads the international practice for 
the powerhouse law and lobbying firm Covington and Burling.

Prince 
<http://www.thenation.com/blog/mercenary-owners-they-are-changin-sort>sold 
Blackwater's aviation division earlier this year 
for $200 million. In announcing last week that 
the rest of Blackwater was up for sale, the 
company said in a 
<http://www.wtop.com/?nid=111&sid=1974791>statement 
that Blackwater's "new management team has made 
significant changes and improvements to the 
company over the last 15 months, which have 
enabled the company to better serve the US 
government and other customers, and will deliver 
additional value to a purchaser." While 
Blackwater has tried to shed the Blackwater name 
in many aspects of its business, the company has 
recently opened a series of Blackwater "Pro-Shop" 
<http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/06/retail-guns-for-hire-blackwater-opens-storefronts/>retail 
stores, offering merchandise bearing the 
Blackwater name and original logo. Among the 
items for sale: pink Blackwater 
<http://proshop.blackwaterusa.com/Babys-Onesies-P1781.aspx>baby 
onesies, Blackwater 
<http://proshop.blackwaterusa.com/BW-Pint-Glass-P1507.aspx>pint 
glasses, Blackwater 
<http://proshop.blackwaterusa.com/BW-Beach-Towel-P1747.aspx>beach 
towels, and, of course, <http://proshop.blackwaterusa.com/bw15.aspx>rifles.

In a 
<http://www.thenation.com/blog/secret-erik-prince-tape-exposed>speech 
in January, obtained by The Nation, Prince said 
that he intends to publish a book this fall. He 
was originally 
<http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=24834>slated 
to come out with a book in June 2008 with the title "We Are Blackwater."

Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who 
reports frequently for the national radio and TV 
program Democracy Now!, has spent extensive time 
reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is 
currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation 
Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: 
The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary 
Army. His writing and reporting is available at 
<http://rebelreports.com/>RebelReports.com.


© 2010 TheNation.com All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/147210/





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