In 2010, amid public scandals and government investigations, Prince began to sell off his Blackwater empire. Using new vehicles, he continued to engage in controversial private security ventures, including operations in Somalia and the United Arab Emirates. Eventually, the former Navy SEAL and self-proclaimed American patriot began building close business ties with powerful individuals connected to the Chinese Communist Party. In January 2014, Prince officially went into business with the Chinese government’s largest state-owned investment firm, the Citic Group, and founded Frontier Services Group, which is based in Hong Kong. Citic Group is the company’s single largest investor, and two of FSG’s board members are Chinese nationals.
Despite the provenance of FSG’s funding and Prince’s history of bad publicity, Prince was able to recruit an impressive line-up of former U.S. military and intelligence officers to run the company. Key to Prince’s ability to retain such personnel, given FSG’s ties to China, has been the firm’s strictly circumscribed mission, which does not include military-related services. FSG is a publicly traded aviation and logistics firm specializing in shipping in Africa and elsewhere. The company also conducts high-risk evacuations from conflict zones. Prince has described his work with FSG as being “on the side of peace and economic development” and helping Chinese businesses to work safely in Africa.
Behind the back of corporate leadership at FSG, Prince was living a double life.
But behind the back of corporate leadership at FSG, Prince was living a double life.
Working with a small cadre of loyalists — including a former South African commando, a former Australian air force pilot, and a lawyer with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel — Prince sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept and interviews with several people familiar with Prince’s business proposals.
Several of the proposals for private security services in African nations examined by The Intercept contained metadata in the digital files showing Prince and his inner circle editing and revising various drafts.
Since 2014, Prince has traveled to at least half a dozen countries to offer various versions of a private military force, secretly meeting with a string of African officials. Among the countries where Prince pitched a plan to deploy paramilitary assets is Libya, which is currently subject to an array of U.S. and United Nations financial and defense restrictions.
Prince engaged in these activities over the objections of his own firm’s corporate leadership. Several FSG colleagues accused him of using his role as chairman to offer Blackwater-like services to foreign governments that could not have been provided by the company, which lacks the capacity, expertise, or even the legal authority to do so.
FSG’s CEO, Gregg Smith, a decorated former U.S. Marine who deployed twice to Beirut in the 1980s, vehemently denies the firm’s complicity in any such efforts by Prince. “FSG has no involvement whatsoever with the provision of — or even offering to provide — defense services in Libya,” Smith told The Intercept. “To the extent that anyone has proposed such services and purported that they were representing FSG, that activity is unauthorized and is not accepted or agreed to by the company.”
Smith said that any proposals advanced by Prince in Libya were not made on behalf of FSG, explaining that the company “has strict protocols in place and has a board-level committee to review any high-risk project, which would certainly include any proposal” involving Libya.
“He’s a rogue chairman,” said Prince’s close associate. “Erik wants to be a real, no-shit mercenary.”
“He’s a rogue chairman,” said one of Prince’s close associates, who has monitored his attempts to sell mercenary forces in Africa.
That source, who has extensive knowledge of Prince’s activities and travel schedule, said that Prince was operating a “secret skunkworks program” while parading around war and crisis zones as FSG’s founder and chairman. “Erik wants to be a real, no-shit mercenary,” said the source. “He’s off the rails exposing many U.S. citizens to criminal liabilities. Erik hides in the shadows … and uses [FSG] for legitimacy.”
Last October, FSG’s corporate leadership grew so concerned about Prince’s efforts to sell paramilitary programs and services that the board passed a series of resolutions stripping Prince of most of his responsibilities as chairman.
FSG also terminated the contracts of two of Prince’s closest associates within the company after management became suspicious that they were assisting Prince in his unapproved dealings, according to two people with knowledge of FSG’s inner workings. Smith declined to comment on internal FSG personnel matters.
In recent months, FSG employees became alarmed when they began to hear reports from sources within the U.S. government that their chairman’s communications and foreign travel were being monitored by U.S. intelligence. According to three people who have worked with Prince, his colleagues were warned not to get involved with his business deals or discuss sensitive issues with him. “I would assume that just about every intelligence agency in the world has him lit up on their screen,” said one of the people advised to avoid Prince.
A slide from a 2015 proposal for a private military force to help “support Libyan sovereign control.” Prince’s lawyer denies he has ever engaged in “anything regarding defense” in Libya.
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