NAIROBI, Kenya – Erik Prince, former head of security company Blackwater Worldwide and a prominent supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, breached a United Nations arms embargo on Libya by sending weapons to a militia commander who was trying to overthrow the International Government according to UN investigators.
A confidential UN report, received by the New York Times and forwarded by investigators to the Security Council on Thursday, shows how Mr Prince left a force of foreign mercenaries armed with attack planes, gunboats and cyberwar capabilities at the height of a year Eastern Libya dispatched great battle in 2019.
As part of the operation, which reportedly cost $ 80 million, the mercenaries also planned to form a hit squad that could track down and kill selected Libyan commanders.
Mr. Prince, a former Navy SEAL and the brother of Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s Secretary of Education, became a symbol of the excesses of privatized American forces when his Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
Over the past decade, he has resurrected as a leader doing business in war-torn but resource-rich countries, mostly in Africa – sometimes for minerals, sometimes with military force.
During the Trump administration, Mr. Prince has been a generous donor and staunch ally of the President, often in conjunction with personalities such as Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, to undermine Mr. Trump’s critics. And Mr Prince was investigated by the Trump-Russia investigation when he met a Russian banker in 2017.
Mr. Prince refused to cooperate with the UN inquiry; His lawyer did not answer questions about the report. Last year attorney Matthew L. Schwartz told the Times that Mr. Prince had “nothing at all” to do with military operations in Libya.
The report raises the question of whether Mr Prince helped build his ties with the Trump administration to call off the Libya operation.
It describes how a friend and former partner of Mr. Prince’s traveled to Jordan to buy surplus American-made Cobra helicopters from the Jordanian military – a sale that, according to military experts, would normally require US government permission. The friend assured officials in Jordan that he had “approvals from anywhere” and that his team’s work was approved “at the highest level,” the report said.
But the Jordanians, unfazed by these claims, stopped selling and forced the mercenaries to source new aircraft from South Africa.
A Western official, who spoke to the Times on condition of anonymity for not being allowed to discuss confidential work, said investigators had also received telephone records showing that Mr. Prince’s friend and former partner made multiple calls to the main switchboard of the White House in late July 2019 after the mercenary operation got into trouble.
The allegation that Mr Prince violated the United Nations arms embargo on Libya exposes him to possible UN sanctions, including a travel ban and freezing of his bank accounts and other assets – although such an outcome is uncertain.
Mr Prince is not the only one accused of violating the decade-old arms embargo against Libya. The rampant interference of regional and global powers has fueled years of fighting and attracted mercenaries and other profiteers looking for riches from a war that has brought death and misery to many Libyans.
The sheer breadth of evidence in the most recent UN report – 121 pages of code names, cover stories, offshore bank accounts, and secret arms transfers in eight countries, not to mention a brief appearance by one of Mr. Prince’s Hollywood friends – gives a glimpse into the mysterious World of international mercenaries.
Libya began to crumble a decade ago when the violent overthrow of the country’s longtime dictator, Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, sparked a political crisis that fragmented the country into armed factions, many of which were eventually backed by foreign powers, the wanted to shape the fate of the oil-rich North African nation.
Eastern Libya is now in the hands of Khalifa Hifter, the powerful militia commander whom the report said Mr Prince wanted to support when the country was ravaged by fighting in 2019.
A one-time CIA asset returning from exile in Virginia following the overthrow of Mr. Qaddafi in 2011, Mr. Hifter quickly established himself in the eastern city of Benghazi as a rising strong man determined to blow his way to power if necessary .
In his late 70s, according to successive United Nations reports, Mr Hifter has relied on the United Arab Emirates for years for funding, armed drones and a range of powerful weapons. More recently, Mr. Hifter has also received support from Russia as a mercenary in the Kremlin-affiliated Wagner group, which has become an integral part of his war machine.
In April 2019, Mr Hifter launched a violent assault on the capital Tripoli but faced massive obstacles, including newly arrived troops from Turkey who were supporting the United Nations-backed government. So Mr. Hifter turned to Mr. Prince.
Mark Mazzetti contributed to coverage from Washington.