Flashpoints

Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s new company has reportedly set up shop in Iraq

Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s new company is reportedly operating in Iraq, a country from which his former company was banned for killing civilians.

A subsidiary of Frontier Services Group, a security and logistics company Prince founded in Hong Kong, has set up shop in Basra, Iraq, BuzzFeed News reported Saturday, citing official documents. The subsidiary, the Dubai-based Frontier Logistics Consultancy DMCC, has officially registered as a foreign company with Iraq’s Ministry of Trade, an official document from last year shows.

In March, Prince told Al Jazeera that he hoped to see FSG supporting oil operations in countries like Iraq. Their subsidiary is operating out of Basra, which is located in the oil-rich southern region.

Prince, a former Navy SEAL, founded FSG with Chinese funding in 2014 after resigning as the CEO of the infamous private military company Blackwater in 2009. Blackwater, which already had a bad reputation for suspected misconduct and fraud, was banned from Iraq in 2007 after contractors opened fire on unarmed civilians in Baghdad’s Nissour Square. The team killed 14 Iraqi civilians.

With support from CITIC, a Chinese state-owned investment group, Prince founded FSG. And, like Blackwater, Prince’s new company is no stranger to controversy.

Not only have critics targeted Prince for training Chinese security forces in support of Chinese strategic initiatives, but earlier this year, he was sharply criticized for FSG’s decision to build a training base in Xinjiang province, where Beijing has been accused of violating human rights in a sweeping crackdown on the local Muslim Uighur minority.

Xinjiang is a key stop on the China-centric trade initiative Washington has sought to throttle, perceiving it as a Chinese influence operation.

"I am a businessman, not a politician, but I am also a proud American who would never do anything against my country's national interest," Prince, brother of the Education Secretary Betsy Devos, previously told Bloomberg. He has also denied any involvement in FSG's plans for Xinjiang.

Prince stepped down as the chairman of FSG in December of last year to make way for new Chinese leadership, but the businessman maintains a position on the board. At this time, it is unclear to what degree he may or may not have been involved in FSG's decisions to operate in Iraq.

Either way, critics are concerned. "This should sound alarm bells for the Iraqi government, who expelled Blackwater from Iraq for deadly behavior," Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat and critic of Prince and his dealings, told BuzzFeed News.

FSG reportedly did not provide comment when questioned about its activities in Iraq. The company has not officially acknowledged operations in Iraq.

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