NAIROBI, KENYA – Erik Prince, the former head of the security contractor Blackwater Worldwide and a prominent supporter of former President Donald Trump, violated a United Nations arms embargo on Libya by sending weapons to a militia commander who was attempting to overthrow the internationally backed government, according to U.N. investigators.
A confidential U.N. report obtained by the New York Times and delivered by investigators to the Security Council on Thursday reveals how Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries, armed with attack aircraft, gunboats and cyberwarfare capabilities, to eastern Libya at the height of a major battle in 2019.
As part of the operation, which the report said cost $80 million, the mercenaries also planned to form a hit squad that could track down and kill selected Libyan commanders.
Prince, a former Navy SEAL and the brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump's education secretary, became a symbol of the excesses of privatized American military force when his Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
In the past decade he has relaunched himself as an executive who strikes deals — sometimes for minerals, other times involving military force — in war-addled but resource-rich countries, mostly in Africa.
During the Trump administration, Prince was a generous donor and a staunch ally of the president, often in league with figures like Steve Bannon and Roger Stone. And Prince came under scrutiny from the Trump-Russia inquiry over his meeting with a Russian banker in 2017.
Prince refused to cooperate with the U.N. inquiry; his lawyer did not respond to questions about the report. Last year the lawyer, Matthew Schwartz, told the Times that Prince "had nothing whatsoever" to do with military operations in Libya.
The accusation that Prince violated the U.N.'s arms embargo on Libya exposes him to possible U.N. sanctions, including a travel ban and a freeze on his bank accounts and other assets.
The report raises the question of whether Prince played on his ties to the Trump administration to pull off the Libya operation.
The sheer breadth of evidence in the U.N. report — 121 pages of code names, cover stories, offshore bank accounts and secretive weapons transfers spanning eight countries, not to mention a brief mention of a Hollywood friend of Prince — provides a glimpse into the secretive world of international mercenaries.
The big question left unanswered by the U.N. report is who funded the $80 million mercenary operation Prince is accused of undertaking.