Posted Apr 17, 2010 12:06 am CDT
Five former executives of a private security company that made headlines over its involvement in a 2007 Baghdad shooting incident that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead are now under indictment, facing apparently unrelated charges that they illegally stockpiled automatic weapons at Blackwater Worldwide’s headquarters in North Carolina and filed false documents concerning five firearms given to the King of Jordan.
The charges against onetime Blackwater general counsel Andrew Howell, 44, and four other ex-executives follow a 2008 federal raid at the Moyock, N.C., headquarters of the company, which changed its name to Xe Services around 2009. Agents seized 17 AK-47s and five other weapons in the raid, and the defendants are now accused of having violated federal law prohibiting even licensed firearms dealers like Blackwater from having all of these weapons, according to the Associated Press and the BBC News.
The AP article says ex-company president Gary Jackson, 52, was charged with conspiracy to violate firearms laws, possession of an unregistered firearm and false statements; it doesn’t specify the charges against the other defendants. An Agence France-Presse article also doesn’t specify the charges but says each of the defendants, if convicted, could face a 20-year prison term.
Law enforcement agencies are permitted to own fully automatic weapons, and the indictment accuses the former Blackwater executives of persuading the local local Camden County sheriff’s office to pose as a weapons purchaser on behalf of the company, which reportedly financed the purchase of 34 automatic weapons for the sheriff’s office in 2005. Company representatives have said that Blackwater stored firearms for the sheriff’s office as a “professional courtesy,” and insisted that federal authorities knew about the guns for years previously, the AP recounts.
A Financial Times article says the weapons provided to the King of Jordan during his 2005 visit to Blackwater headquarters in Moyock, according to the indictment, were three Glock handguns, s Bushmaster M4 rifle and a Remington shotgun. He and his country are not accused of any wrongdoing.
Both Howell and Jackson minimized the federal raid in Moyock during a 2008 interview with the Associated Press, and said agents had stopped at the company’s front gate to get passes for admittance.
“As a hypothetical, one would think that, if you were going on a raid, you’d take your Kevlar and your weapon,” Howell said at the time, as other executives chuckled.
Attorney Kenneth Bell, who represents Jackson, describes the former Navy Seal as a true American hero and says the charges against his client are “false.”
A spokesman for Xe says the company fully cooperated with the feds and declined further comment.
Additional and related coverage:
ABAJournal.com (Jan. 2010): “Judge’s Ruling Tossing Charges Against Blackwater Guards Alludes to Alternatives”
Reuters: “Ex-Blackwater president charged in firearms case”