Erik Prince Offered Military Services To Sanctioned Russian Mercenary Firm
Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm Blackwater, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and an advisor to the Trump administration, has reportedly sought to provide military services to a Russian mercenary group, The Intercept reported in April.
- Prince allegedly met with Russia’s Wagner Group early this year to discuss offering his services to the group’s operations in Libya and Mozambique, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. Prince’s attorney has since denied this meeting occurred, while Wagner officials stated they have no interest in working with Prince.
- The Wagner Group is a semi-private military group that has interfered in countries and conflicts to further Russian interests while maintaining the guise that Russia had no direct involvement.
- Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former military contractor, said about the Wagner Group:
“Wagner Group is an instrument of Russian policy. It works under the GRU, which is the Russian military intelligence.”
- The Trump administration previously sanctioned Wagner in 2017 after it allegedly “recruited and sent soldiers to fight alongside [Russian-backed] separatists in eastern Ukraine.” Doing business with Wagner has opened Prince up to legal liability, as the sanction prohibited individuals and businesses from providing “financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.”
- Brian O’Toole, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council and former senior sanctions official at the Treasury Department, said:
“In my experience, the act of soliciting from a sanctioned party would indeed be an apparent violation. Whether you make that [legal] case is an entirely separate matter.”