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Congo is new ‘exploration’ target of U.S. mercenary army founder after brutal Iraq killings

June 17, 2019 at 02:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Head of Content

June 17, 2019 at 02:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Blackwater private security firm founder Erik Prince in suit

The founder of the infamous mercenary army and U.S. government contractors, Blackwater – whose operatives have been charged with unlawful killings during the Iraq War in 2007 – has registered a company in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Former Navy SEAL officer Erik Prince, who founded Blackwater in 1997 and sold the company in 2010 after several indictments, has registered a subsidiary of his self-run Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group (FSG) in DR Congo, according to a filing with Congo’s business registry cited by Reuters.

Among its operations are “the exploration, exploitation and commercialisation of minerals”, forest logging, security, transport, construction and “all financial, investment and project financing operations, both public and private”.

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Erik Prince (right) leaves the House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the Blackwater Security firm conduct in Iraq. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

The Frontier Services Group Congo was registered in August 2018 and formally established in November 2018. The company, which has close ties to the state-owned Chinese investment company CITIC, has owned a small Congolese trucking company called Cheetah Logistics since 2015 and it provides services to Chinese firms in Africa.

Its interests in Africa has raised a lot of concerns especially when Prince has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, sources told Reuters in April.

This is besides his unsuccessful efforts to convince the Trump administration to replace U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan with security contractors.

Blackwater has benefited from over $1 billion contracts from the U.S. government since 2003 to provide protective services as well as train local armies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Israel.

Between 2005 and September 2007, Blackwater security employees were involved in 195 shooting incidents and in 163 of those cases, they fired first. In 2007, Blackwater’s license was revoked by the Iraqi government after the Nisour Square killings.

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17 Iraqi civilians were killed and 20 more were injured by Blackwater convoy guards in a Baghdad traffic circle and charges were brought against five guards. One pleaded guilty to a lesser offense and three were convicted in 2014 of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to thirty years plus one day in prison. Another was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, a verdict overturned in 2017.

The company agreed in 2010 to pay $42 million in fines for hundreds of violations of U.S. export rules, including making unauthorized proposals to train troops in southern Sudan. Prince sold the company after he renamed it Xe Services in 2009. It is now called Academi and is based in Virginia.

Prince told the Financial Times earlier this year that he aims to raise up to half a billion dollars through a new fund to invest in mining metals like cobalt, copper and lithium that are needed for electric car batteries, reports Reuters.

Congo is Africa’s largest producer of copper and produces 60 percent of the world’s cobalt output. A strategic investment for Erik Prince.

Here are reactions to the company’s operations in DR Congo.

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