Erik Prince, Founder of Blackwater, Faces Indictment in Austria for Trafficking Arms to Libya in Violation of UN Arms Embargo
UN Report Supports Allegations of Arms Trafficking by Erik Prince to Libya, Prompting Indictment
In a significant development, Erik Prince, the prominent US billionaire and founder of the private military company Blackwater, has been indicted in Austria for his alleged involvement in trafficking arms to Libya in violation of the United Nations arms embargo. The indictment comes as a result of a United Nations security report issued in February 2021, which provided compelling evidence supporting the allegations against Prince. The report, conducted by a UN expert panel, revealed that Prince orchestrated a covert military operation in Africa, clandestinely supplying Libyan general and warlord Khalifa Haftar with expensive war equipment to support his fight against the government.
From Elitist Circles to a Legal Quagmire: The Journey of Erik Prince
Once the frontman of the infamous Blackwater US mercenary group, 53-year-old Erik Prince is no stranger to controversy. Known for his associations with Donald Trump and Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Prince often mingles with the world’s power elite.
However, Prince’s latest situation is set to bring him from boardrooms and palaces to an Austrian courtroom, as a legal storm gathers around him. Wiener Neustadt prosecutors have prepared a case against him and four others, citing violations of Section 7 of the War Material Act.
A Tense Legal Drama Around War Material Trafficking
The case, filed on April 20, revolves around alleged illicit trade in explosives and war equipment – offenses that could warrant up to five years of imprisonment. This development underlines an unfolding narrative involving the dynamics of international law and the weapon industry.
Who is Erik Prince and What Does Austria Accuse Him Of?
Erik Prince, an ex-Navy SEAL officer turned businessman, founded the private military firm, Blackwater. Known for his roles in the Frontier Resource Group and Frontier Services Group, his influence also extends to familial ties with Edgar Prince, a business magnate, and Betsy DeVos, the former US Secretary of Education.
Blackwater, established in 1997, offered training and security to military and law enforcement agencies. It gained prominence through government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it safeguarded American diplomats and senior personnel. However, it faced backlash over allegations of misconduct and human rights violations, culminating in the 2007 Nisour Square incident in Baghdad where 17 Iraqi civilians lost their lives at the hands of Blackwater associates. Despite subsequent convictions, the implicated parties were pardoned by President Donald Trump in December 2020.
Arms Deal with Libya and Alleged Violations of the War Material Act
Austria’s allegations against Prince involve an alleged covert operation supporting Libyan rebel leader Khalifa Haftar in 2019, in defiance of a UN Security Council decree. Prince is accused of supplying Haftar with military assets, including attack helicopters, drones, mercenaries, and weaponry, worth over $80 million.
Reportedly, one such shipment passed through Austria, with Prince employing Austrian firm GLOBUS to transport 20 tons of explosives from Bulgaria to Libya. Although these explosives were allegedly for demining, UN experts dispute this claim, contending they were destined for military deployment. However, Austrian customs thwarted the delivery due to contravention of the EU arms embargo on Libya.
Facing Trial: Prince and Four Others Charged in Arms Trafficking Case
Prince, along with the CEO of GLOBUS, a Bulgarian arms dealer, a British security advisor, and a South African pilot have now been indicted by the prosecutors of Wiener Neustadt. Their charges, under the file number 48Hv 44/23t, include allegations of violating the War Material Act, which forbids unauthorized exportation of weaponry. All five individuals are currently implicated in the case.
Despite these allegations, Prince has repeatedly denied any involvement, distancing himself from GLOBUS and the explosive consignment. He has also dismissed the UN’s allegations concerning his Libyan dealings as baseless, claiming he has no business connections with Libya.
The case has not yet gone to trial, but proceedings are likely to commence soon. Should Prince be found guilty, he could face a maximum sentence of five years. However, his extradition to Austria or voluntary surrender remains uncertain.
A Case Exposing the Dark Side of Private Military Companie
This case underscores the murky operations of private military corporations like Blackwater and their founders, often operating behind the scenes and defying international laws. It further draws attention to the complicated and volatile situation in Libya, as various external forces grapple to gain control.
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