The FBI is It is investigating a failed mercenary plan related to the Libyan civil war in 2019 and has tried to find out what role private military contractor Erik Prince, if any, played a role, according to six people aware of the investigation. Prince has not been charged with a crime.
Federal researchers began investigating Prince’s involvement in Jordan’s military helicopter and arms sales company last summer as part of a 2019 plan to help Libya’s declared leader Khalifa Hifter defeat the country’s UN-backed government, according to four experts. research.
The FBI declined to comment.
In February, a UN investigation found that Prince and others had violated the arms embargo on Libya and described in detail parts of a secret attempt to get a team of mercenaries and planes for an assassination unit to support Hifter. Prince has denied involvement in a project called Project Opus, and told the New York Times that he had never met or talked to Hifter.
Prince’s attorney Matthew Schwartz said his client had nothing to do with the mercenary plan. “As Mr Prince has repeatedly said, he had no involvement in the alleged military operations in Libya in 2019, and the report, which suggested otherwise, was based on an incomplete investigation and was based on biased sources.”
In particular, FBI agents from the Washington Field Office have inquired about Prince’s role in creating modified vacuum cleaners and trying to market it as a military aircraft for use in conflicts around the world. The planes were to be used in a broader effort to help the apostate Libyan army commander take control of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Intercept described Prince’s repeated efforts to help move planes and other material from Jordan to Libya, including arranging meetings with then-President Donald Trump, a member of the National Security Council, but Jordanian government officials suspended the agreement. Prince worked with Royal Feisal ibn al-Hussein of Jordan to arrange for the sale and transfer of arms, according to three individuals aware of the arrangement. This summer, FBI agents tried to interview Feisal and several others working with him, according to two people who know about the FBI’s activities in Jordan. Feisal, through the Jordanian embassy in Washington, previously denied that he had any share in the plot or relationship with Prince.
In April, two months after the UN documented a change of ownership of Frontier Services Group aircraft, the FSG announced Prince resigned from the company “because of its other business arrangements.” Schwartz, Prince’s attorney, said in an email that his client resigned “from a disagreement with the performance and direction of the company’s management. Any suggestions that his resignation had anything to do with the UN panel report are false.
With plans to move the plane to Libya and major mercenary efforts disintegrated, one of the planes was transferred to Cyprus. Earlier this month, FBI agents traveled to a Mediterranean island to inspect a dustpan on a converted American crop, a person familiar with the sensor said. Cyprus-based news organization Kathimerini reported on an FBI inspection of the aircraft earlier. Intercept had previously reported on Prince’s secret attempts to develop harvesting equipment into military aircraft and market it for use in several wars.
Prince, the founder of Blackwater, is the brother of Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and was one of the former president’s most ardent supporters. Prince, a descendant of a wealthy and politically connected family, has been involved in controversy since the Iraq war, when Blackwater won major contracts to support the U.S. occupation.
Blackwater was banned from Iraq in 2007 following the Nisour Square massacre, in which its contractors killed 17 Iraqis and wounded 20 others. The prince later sold Blackwater and moved to the United Arab Emirates, where he built a secret mercenary force on the de facto ruler of the seven Gulf Arab Federation, Mohammed bin Zayed, known as the MBZ.
During the Trump administration, Prince lobbied at the White House for the privatization of the war in Afghanistan and the establishment of a secret intelligence unit for the president. Both proposals were rejected. Prince has denied advising the White House, but three people familiar with his role said Prince worked closely with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and the MBA in recent years as the two negotiated policy in the Middle East and Africa. Kushner has denied his cooperation with Prince.
The FBI has been investigating Prince’s global network of businesses and operations since at least 2020, according to three individuals familiar with the investigation. During Trump’s presidency, FBI agents searched for witnesses and documents to help them understand Prince’s role in the Libyan arms trade, which involved extra military aircraft and weapons for the Jordanian military, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.
Recently, the FBI asked the British government for permission to interview a British Army general who, while working as an adviser to the King of Jordan, investigated and eventually helped stop arms sales and deliveries to Libya, a person familiar with the case said. FBI investigation. It is unclear whether the UK accepted the request or whether the FBI conducted the interview. The Intercept revealed the role of British General Alex MacIntosh in February.
“The Department of Defense will cooperate fully with law enforcement when they are committed,” a ministry spokesman told The Intercept via email. “Brigadier Macintosh is a respected officer in the British Army who served deservedly alongside the Jordanian Armed Forces during his tenure.”
The latest FBI investigation is one of several government Prince investigations since he led Blackwater. As part of the sale of the company, Prince negotiated a deferred prosecution agreement for gun and export violations committed by Blackwater while Prince was the sole director overseeing the company. Blackwater paid nearly $ 50 million to reconcile payments as part of the deal, but Prince was never personally charged with the crime.
When Prince founded his Chinese company, the FSG, the FBI was investigating several mercenary proposals for countries in Africa and the Middle East. In 2015, the FBI launched a counterintelligence investigation after Prince met with a Chinese intelligence service to try to open a bank account in China. That same year, after Prince secretly modified two dust brushes from the Thrush plant and tried to sell them, American FSG leaders reported a possible export violation to the Department of Justice.
During Trump’s first year in government, Prince once again faced federal control, this time Special Lawyer Robert Mueller, who tried to understand Prince’s role in a January 2017 meeting in Seychelles with a Russian banker and the Kremlin’s top ambassador. According to FBI documents, Prince’s mercenary business in Libya and the Middle East was discussed at a meeting hosted by an MBZ assistant.
Prince also testified under oath to the Congress Committee on the Seychelles meeting. Interview notes from the FBI of Prince and MBZ’s assistant show that Prince used his trip to try to bring out the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates both his mercenary objectives in Libya and the use of his modified harvesting equipment as military aircraft.
Following the publication of Mueller’s report in 2019, both House of Representatives and Senate intelligence committees indicted Prince for a possible false or misleading witness statement as they investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. None of the federal investigations have led to prosecutions.
Ali Younes participated in the reporting.