Sources close to Blackwater and its secretive owner Erik Prince claim that the embattled head of the world’s most infamous mercenary firm is planning to move to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Middle Eastern nation, a major hub for the US war industry, has no extradition treaty with the United States. In April, five of Prince’s top deputies were hit with a fifteen-count indictment by a federal grand jury on conspiracy, weapons and obstruction of justice charges. Among those indicted were Prince’s longtime number-two man, former Blackwater president Gary Jackson, former vice presidents William Matthews and Ana Bundy and Prince’s former legal counsel Andrew Howell.
The Blackwater/Erik Prince saga took yet another dramatic turn last week, when Prince abruptly announced that he was putting his company up for sale.
While Prince has not personally been charged with any crimes, federal investigators and several Congressional committees clearly have his company and inner circle in their sights. The Nation learned of Prince’s alleged plans to move to the UAE from three separate sources. One Blackwater source told The Nation that Prince intends to sell his company quickly, saying the "sale is going to be a fast move within a couple of months."
Mark Corallo, a trusted Prince advisor and Blackwater spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the allegation that Prince is planning to move to the United Arab Emirates. "I have a policy on not discussing my client’s personal lives—especially when that client is a private citizen," Corallo, who runs his own crisis management and PR firm, said in an e-mail to The Nation. "It is nobody’s business where Mr. Prince (or anyone else) chooses to live. So I’m afraid I will not be able to confirm any rumors."
A source with knowledge of the federal criminal probe into Blackwater’s activities told The Nation that none of Prince’s indicted colleagues have flipped on Prince since being formally charged, but rumors abound in Blackwater and legal circles that Prince may one day find himself in legal trouble. Former Blackwater employees claim they have provided federal prosecutors with testimony about what they allege is Prince’s involvement in illegal activity.
If Prince’s rumored future move is linked to concerns over possible indictment, the United Arab Emirates would be an interesting choice for a new home—particularly because it does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. "If Prince were not living in the US, it would be far more complicated for US prosecutors to commence an action against him," says Scott Horton, a Columbia University Law lecturer and international law expert who has long tracked Blackwater. "There is a long history of people thwarting prosecutors simply by living overseas." The UAE, Horton says, is "definitely a jurisdiction where Prince could count on it not being simple for the US to pursue him legally."
The UAE is made up of seven states, the most powerful among them being Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Since 9/11, they have emerged as hubs for the US war industry. "Global service providers" account for some three-quarters of Dubai’s GDP, while oil represents only 3 percent. "They have established themselves as the premiere location in the Middle East for offshore banking and professional services," says Horton, who has legal experience in the UAE. "If you have connections to the royal families, then the law doesn’t really apply to you. I would be very surprised if Erik Prince does not have those kinds of connections there."