Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The founder of “Blackwater” denies being involved in supporting Haftar, despite UN confirmation


Eric Prince, founder of the notorious “Blackwater” security company, denied carrying out a “mercenary” operation targeting political and military leaders in Tripoli, Libya, which includes jamming communication lines and radars, and violating the prohibition on supplying arms to the conflicting parties.

In a phone call to the “New York Times”, Prince denied the accusations contained in a UN report the contents of the newspaper published earlier, and confirms the man’s relationship with the retired Libyan General Khalifa Haftar.

According to a newspaper report that quoted Prince’s statements, translated by “Arabi 21”, the latter distanced himself from the former US president, Donald Trump.

The company’s foundation, whose name was linked to crimes during the Iraq war, denied any role in US policy-making, stressing that he had only met Trump once.

The aforementioned UN report was prepared by investigators at the international organization, and concluded that the founder of Blackwater violated the arms embargo on Libya, and financed operations of mercenaries in Libya, in 2019, with $ 80 million, in favor of Haftar.

Read also: Confidential report: an ally of Trump violated the arms embargo on Libya to support Haftar

Prince asserted that much of the main accusations contained in the report were “incorrect,” but he said that he had not seen it, nor his lawyers.

He said, “Eric Prince did not violate any arms embargo and has nothing to do with sending fighters and drones, weapons or fighters to Libya, point.”

Prince became the subject of scrutiny and examination after the contractors in his company killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007 and because of his relationship with Trump, especially since he is the brother of the former Minister of Education Betty DeVos.

Prince denounced what was stated in the United Nations report and attacked his critics and played down any relationship with the former president.

He said, “I was not an advisor for foreign affairs to the president,” referring to some press reports that used this description, adding that “that’s why he stopped describing me with this, because it is incorrect.”

Prince admitted that he had not seen the report, which consists of hundreds of pages and a number of PowerPoint presentations, contracts, bank transfers, text messages and other evidence.

Prince did not present any strong evidence to contradict the evidence stated in the report about his relationship with the failed operation of the retired Libyan general, who tried for years to seize power by force, turning on the outputs of understandings under UN and international sponsorship.

The report was based on the testimonies of “Greg Smith”, who worked with Prince between 2014 and 2016, and who confirmed that the mercenary process that the United Nations team investigated has many similarities with the operation headed by the leader of “Blackwater” in South Sudan in 2014.

“They are the same people, the same fighters,” Smith said.

The newspaper pointed out that Prince’s denial will increase the bets on the confidential report that is currently put before the Security Council and will be available next month.

And there is the possibility of imposing sanctions on Prince by freezing his financial assets or preventing him from traveling, although these sanctions are rarely imposed by the United Nations, according to “The New York Times”.

Prince’s accusation is that he pledged $ 80 million in support of Haftar, in a meeting between them in Cairo in April 2019, days after the latter launched a massive military operation against the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli.

Prince emphasized that this is “impossible” and said, “I did not meet General Haftar … and I was not in Cairo in 2019 … nor did I speak to the man.”

The report states that the meeting coincided with a change in the Trump administration’s position in Libya.

Days after the meeting, the report says, on April 15, Trump called Haftar and officially recognized his “important role in combating terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources,” as stated in the call summary published by the White House.

Four days later, Trump surprised his aides by supporting Haftar’s advance towards Tripoli in what he saw as a radical change in the US position on Libya.

Before that, the US government supported the government that Haftar is trying to overthrow. Prince claimed that he tried to influence the president only through newspaper articles.

In 2017, in an article in the Financial Times, he suggested creating a special border guard force to prevent the flow of migrants into Libya. In another article published by “The Wall Street Journal,” he suggested forming a special force of contractors to fight in Afghanistan.

He said, “I wish he had listened to the advice that I gave him in the two articles.”

Prince also confirmed that he had not discussed Libya with the two close people of Trump, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The mercenary operation that the UN report talks about was one of the vast external interference operations in Libya since the overthrow of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011.

The UAE, Turkey, Egypt and Russia supported parties in the ongoing war and sent weapons, fighters and money.

Haftar, who was one of the most powerful warlords and controlled the east, faced severe criticism from the international community when he launched his attack on Tripoli with the support of the UAE and later from Russia through the mercenaries of the “Wagner” company.

Read also: A UN condemnation of Trump’s pardon for the “Blackwater” killers: an affront to justice

The report says that a team of British, Australian and South African mercenaries, in addition to an American, secretly arrived in Libya in June 2019 as part of an $ 80 million operation to support Haftar’s campaign against Tripoli.

The mercenaries arrived in Libya with military aircraft and boats that had been smuggled from South Africa and Europe, and offered to form a death squad to assassinate the main military commander, rival to Haftar.

However, the operation encountered problems when Jordan refused to sell the “Cobra” helicopters to the mercenary team, and then it turned into a disaster when the mercenaries disagreed with the angry Haftar and fled by boat to Malta via the Mediterranean.

Prince said that at that time he was in the mountains of “Wyoming”, then Alaska and Canada, on a trip with his son.

He added: “It is difficult to manage a mercenary operation from the northern hinterland of Yukon (on the borders of Canada and Alaska).”

The United Nations report says Prince transported three of his planes to Libya for use in Haftar’s war.

Investigators added that pursuing aircraft papers transferred them to companies controlled by Prince in Bermuda, Bulgaria and the United States, among others.

Prince was not convincing, according to the newspaper, when he tried to explain his relationship with these companies.

His lawyers contradicted him when Prince said he was the owner of the British “Bridgeworth” company, which was used as a cover for his military adventures.

Prince said that he does not know and does not care who bought the aircraft that arrived in Libya, stressing that he refused to deal with the United Nations investigators, who are a group of people familiar with the illegal arms trade or what is known as the “expert committee”, accusing them of defaming his reputation and without legal procedures, considering that their work “spiteful”.

A Western official said that UN investigators recommended sanctions against a friend and former partner of Prince for his role in the mercenary operation.

Prince faces a reputation battle now, at least at the United Nations. He said he was the victim of a shadowy image and the secrecy he himself helped create.

“My name has become just a bait for people to weave conspiracy theories around,” he said. “If they throw my name on it, it often attracts attention, which is nauseating.”





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