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article imageOp-Ed: Former Blackwater head Erik Prince had dealings in Libya

By Ken Hanly     Mar 25, 2016 in World
Washington - The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Erick Prince over evidence he used Frontier Services Group, of which he is chair, to sell defense services in Libya. He is also suspected of being involved in a money-laundering deal using the Bank of China.
Erik Prince is perhaps best known as founder and former head of Blackwater Inc., a government services and security company. He was CEO until 2009. Blackwater was sold in 2010. He is currently head of Frontier Resource Group, and chair of Frontier Services Group based in Hong Kong. He lives in Dubai and also Virginia,
From 1997 until 2010 Blackwater won $2 billion in government security contracts. From 2001 to 2010 the CIA awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and affiliates. It was the largest of the U.S. State Departments' three private security companies and provided 987 guards for embassies and bases abroad. In September of 2007, a convoy of Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounded 20 more. Eventually three guards were convicted of 14 manslaughter charges and one of murder in a U.S. court. When Obama took office in 2008 criticism continued. Prince told Vanity Fair in January 2010: "I put myself and my company at the CIA's disposal for some very risky missions. But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus."
Prince has denied any knowledge of a federal investigation. There are accusations that Prince used Chinese intelligence connections to open up an account in the Bank of China to finance the sale of self defense services in city which would in effect be used for money laundering on behalf of Libyans.
In January of 2014, Prince went into business with China's largest state-owned investment firm the Citic Group and he founded the Frontier Services Group(FSG) based in Hong Kong. Citic is the largest investor and two board members are Chinese citizens.
The FSG is staffed by many well-qualified U.S. personnel in spite of its ties to China. The firm has strict restrictions upon what sort of services it can offer. FSG is a publicly traded aviation and logistics firm that specializes in shipping in Africa and other places. It also provides high-risk evacuations from conflict zones. Prince himself describes his work with the FSG as "on the side of peace and economic development" and helping Chinese businesses to work safely in Africa. What seems to have happened is that Prince is using his connection with FSG to secretly rebuild his own private CIA and special operations by setting up foreign shell companies that offer paramilitary services. Documents reviewed by the Intercept and interviews with several people familiar with Prince's operations show that he pitched a plan to deploy paramilitary assets to Libya. Currently Libya is under many US and UN restrictions as far as providing such assets are concerned.
When the firm's leadership got wind of what was happening there were objections to his plan: Several FSG colleagues accused him of using his role as chairman to offer Blackwater-like services to foreign governments that could not have been provided by the company, which lacks the capacity, expertise, or even the legal authority to do so. The CEO of FSG is, Gregg Smith, a decorated former U.S. marine. He vehemently denies that the firm has any involvement at all in Prince's projects saying: “FSG has no involvement whatsoever with the provision of — or even offering to provide — defense services in Libya. To the extent that anyone has proposed such services and purported that they were representing FSG, that activity is unauthorized and is not accepted or agreed to by the company.”
One of Prince's close associates described his activity in the most unflattering terms: “He’s a rogue chairman.Erik wants to be a real, no-shit mercenary. He’s off the rails exposing many U.S. citizens to criminal liabilities. Erik hides in the shadows … and uses [FSG] for legitimacy.” FSG's board is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with their chairman and passed a series of resolution restricting his power.
Prince's Libyan operation was code-named Lima. It offered the Libyans a large array of military equipment and services. The vehicles included helicopters, boats and surveillance airplanes and was designed to help stabilize eastern Libya. One person familiar with the plan said it would involve former Australian special operations commandos. However, Prince was unable to find the right power brokers to sell his plans.
By May of 2015, Prince had managed to rebrand himself as chair of a legitimate company the FSG. Without approval from his board, Prince returned to Libya with a repackaged proposal. Rather than a counter-insurgency force, the same group and equipment would serve to reinforce border security. In particular he would take advantage of the concern in Europe of the flow of migrants from Libya. His armed vehicles, helicopters, boats and surveillance planes would be used to stop the flow of refugees from Libya to Europe. Prince told colleagues that he had support from a senior Libyan official. Prince hoped to get support from European officials and pitched the plan in Italy but got only a lukewarm response. He also went to Germany. He then tried to set up a bank account in Macau to launder money from Libya sources. Prince was unable to do so on his own but apparently through connections with Chinese intelligence authorities was able to open an account at the Bank of Canada.
The U.S. authorities are not only concerned about the money-laundering scheme but also U.S. citizens offering military service or technology to Libya must have a license that the services or articles are approved under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation or ITAR. John Baker, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for export controls said “Many of these services and articles are designed to kill people or defend against killing people. To protect U.S. national security and foreign policy as well as that of its allies, the U.S. requires prior authorization.”
The U.S. may decide to clamp down on Prince but then again he no doubt has connections with the CIA. However, so far it looks as if he has not enough important power brokers to enable him to be successful in his plans. He may even find himself losing the chairmanship of the FSG.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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