Blackwater founder moving to Abu Dhabi
Erik Prince, founder of the notorious security firm Blackwater, planned to leave the United States and relocate this month to Abu Dhabi, according to US Department of Justice documents.
Prince has been under a glaring spotlight as the subject of multiple lawsuits, including by two former civilian Blackwater employees over the company's operations in Iraq and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In documents filed with the Justice Department, a lawyer said Prince planned to settle in the UAE prior to August 15, when his children were starting school.
Prince does not face criminal charges, but his company, which now operates under the name Xe Services, has been implicated in a slew of scandals related to its operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Five executives face indictment on weapons charges, two ex-employees face murder charges after two Afghans died in Kabul in May 2009 -- they pleaded not guilty on Tuesday -- and the firm was banned from Iraq after allegations its guards opened fire on innocent civilians, although a US court cleared company employees of criminal charges.
The two former Blackwater employees suing the company have accused it of defrauding the federal government, which was Blackwater's largest employers and has paid the firm several million dollars in contracts since 2001.
They wanted Prince to appear in court prior to his departure, but judge Thomas Rowles Jones ordered him to "appear on August 23, 2010, as noticed, in Abu Dhabi, UAE, or on such other date not later than September 3, 2010, at such other place, as counsel for defendants and counsel for relator may agree," according to the documents.
Plaintiff lawyer Susan Burke said in a filing dated August 5 that Prince "intends to depart permanently from the United States at the end of August 2010."
The 51-year-old Prince, a former US Navy Seal, founded Blackwater in 1997, and it rose to become the largest private security firm used by the US authorities in Iraq.
But last year he sought to distance himself from the company, which has seen its contracts with the US government shrivel after it played substantial security roles in Washington's years-long "war on terror."
Colleagues told The New York Times that Prince aimed to focus on security assignments for governments in Africa and the Middle East, and that he had become bitter about the scrutiny and negative publicity the company has received.
"He needs a break from America", one unnamed colleague was quoted as saying in the Times.
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