NY Times: Blackwater Authorized $1 Mil To Iraq Officials To Buy Silence After Civilians Killed
Secret payments of $1 million to Iraqi officials, approved by the contractor Blackwater, were intended to bribe them into silence and gain their support after the company’s security guards fatally shot 17 civilians and wounded dozens more in Baghdad in 2007. On September 16, 2007, Blackwater personnel opened fire on Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square. Automatic weapons fire sprayed indiscriminately, according to investigators. Grenades were launched into a nearby school. Four former company officials say then-president Gary Jackson (above, l) approved the bribes.
Then-Blackwater Vice Chairman Cofer Black (c) is said to have confronted founder Erik Prince (r) who did not deny the claims.
Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, [former company] officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Stacy DeLuke, a spokeswoman for the company, now called Xe Services, dismissed the allegations as “baseless” and said the company would not comment about former employees. Mr. Black did not respond to telephone calls and e-mail messages seeking comment.
Reached by phone, Mr. Jackson, who resigned as president early this year, criticized The New York Times and said, “I don’t care what you write.”
Five Blackwater guards involved in the shooting are facing federal manslaughter charges, and their trial is scheduled to start in February in Washington. A sixth guard pleaded guilty in December. The company has never faced criminal charges in the case, although the Iraqi victims brought a civil lawsuit in federal court against Blackwater and Mr. Prince.
Separately, a federal grand jury in North Carolina, where the company has its headquarters, has been conducting a lengthy investigation into it. One of the former executives said that he had told federal prosecutors there about the plan to pay Iraqi officials to drop their inquiries into the Nisour Square case. If Blackwater followed through, the company or its officials could face charges of obstruction of justice and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans bribes to foreign officials.Click here for reuse options!
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