Academi LLC, America’s largest commercial security firm, is willing to pay $7.5 million to settle criminal charges over illegal arms sales and services to foreign governments without Washington’s approval.
Better known as Blackwater Worldwide, its former name, it was more than once linked to the killing of civilians, arms smuggling and conflicts that tarnished U.S. servicemen’s reputation abroad. On several occasions its actions all but triggered diplomatic scandals, and each time it somehow managed to pull through.
During a court hearing in North Carolina on Tuesday, Academi agreed to pay $7.5 million in penalties as part of a deferred prosecution agreement to settle violations of the arms export and international arms trafficking regulations related to unsanctioned services dating to 2005-2008. These included the sale of cell phones to Sudan and military training for the Canadian government.
The new scandal is further glaring proof of dubious relationships between the U.S. Administration and business. Suffice it to recall the Nisour tragedy in Iraq when Blackwater security guards accompanying a diplomatic convoy opened fire on civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad, killing 17 and wounding 18 Iraqis. U.S. military prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigations acknowledged that the guards had no reason to open fire. What’s more, one of the guards described the incident as a “coldblooded murder”. The Nisour massacre considerably strained the U.S.-Iraqi relations with Baghdad demanding that all Blackwater personnel be immediately withdrawn. But it all ended in Blackwater’s operations license suspended for not more than a week. Blackwater lawyers somehow managed to prove in court later that the charges against it were unconstitutional, and consequently they were altogether dismissed in 2009.
Blackwater was embroiled in many other incidents, some of them quite incredible. In 2006, a drunken Blackwater man shot dead a bodyguard of the Iraqi vice president. He was deported and sacked, but nothing beyond that. And there was also the brutal dispersal of a peaceful rally in the Iraqi city of Najaf in April 2004.
Yet, it looks like no matter what Blackwater mercenaries have done or will do or how their deeds affect the image of the United States, they will invariably be pardoned. Though forced to change names from time to time and having large fines to pay, the company is not in want of lucrative government contracts.
One circumstance that provides some clues as to why it is so is that Blackwater-turned-Academi is one of the top sponsors of the Republican Party – a party of big business, weapons producers and oil corporations.