Back home, federal prosecutors are investigating the company for illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq. Weapons that might have been sold on the black market and ended up in the possession of at least one group that the United States designates as a terrorist organization.
The U.S. Attorney in Raleigh, NC is investigating the allegations, with the help of the Pentagon and auditors from the State Department, and they have determined that there is enough evidence to move forward.
The official that spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity could not say whether indictments would be forthcoming, how many Blackwater employees might be involved, or whether the company itself might be implicated.
The allegations of malfeasance come at a time when the no-bid contracts the company has secured since 2003 invasion of Iraq are being scrutinized.
Neither George Holding, the US attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, nor the spokesperson for Blackwater returned calls to the AP on Friday, and officials from both State and the Pentagon declined comment.
Due to the sensitivity of the matter, officials with knowledge of the case would only confirm that the investigation is currently active but in an initial phase.
The investigation is fueled by the willingness of two Blackwater mercenaries to cooperate with federal investigators after pleading guilty in early 2007 to possession of stolen firearms that had been shipped via interstate or international commerce to cooperate with federal investigators. They agreed to testify in further proceedings as a part of their plea agreements.
According to officials in Washington, the investigation grew from internal Pentagon and State Department inquiries into U.S. weapons that had gone missing in Iraq.
It gained steam after Turkish authorities protested to the U.S. in July that they had seized American arms from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, rebels.
The Turks provided serial numbers of the weapons to U.S. investigators, said a Turkish official.
The Pentagon said in late July it was looking into the Turkish complaints and a U.S. official said FBI agents had traveled to Turkey in recent months to look into cases of missing U.S. weapons in Iraq.
Investigators are determining whether the alleged Blackwater weapons match those taken from the PKK.
It was not clear if Blackwater employees suspected of selling to the black market knew the weapons they allegedly sold to middlemen might wind up with the PKK. If they did, possible charges against them could be more serious than theft or illegal weapons sales, officials said.
Who could have imagined that hiring a mercenary outfit might blow up in their faces? People who have a profit motive for sustained conflict would never think about arming enemies or insurgents. They would never put corporate profit over the good of the nation. Yes, indeed. Who could have possibly imagined...
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