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 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 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. 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.
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.
The latest developments in the Blackwater story come after a two-year campaign by Blackwater to rebrand itself as ”Xe Services” and the ”US Training Center.” In March 2009, Prince 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 scrutiny on Capitol Hill and continued pressure from the Justice Department.
It will be interesting to monitor how quickly Blackwater sells, who buys it, and if in fact Prince relocates to the UAE.
Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.
The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at one of the offices listed above.