An independent investigation revealed Prince’s botched mercenary operation to help Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar overthrow the internationally-backed GNA government.
Independent UN sanctions monitors have accused Erik Prince, co-founder of the infamous Blackwater private security company, of plotting and launching a failed mercenary operation in Libya.
Dubbed the “Energizer Bunny” of the shadowy private military and security contracting world, Prince’s plans were detailed in a 120-page report delivered to the UN Security Council on how he “violated a United Nations arms embargo on Libya by sending weapons to a militia commander who was attempting to overthrow the internationally backed government.”
That commander? Libyan warlord and former CIA asset, General Khalifa Haftar.
According to the report, UN monitors said they had “identified that Erik Prince made a proposal for the operation to Haftar in Cairo, Egypt, on, or about, 14 April 2019.” Haftar was in Cairo at the time to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi.
The UN arms embargo on Libya has been ignored by all sides since 2011, even with violators facing travel ban and asset freeze sanctions per UN Security Council Resolution 1970. The country has been divided since 2014 between the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in the west and Haftar’s eastern-based forces.
Although rival Libyan administrations agreed to a ceasefire last October, neither have pulled back their forces. Haftar has received support from Russia and the United Arab Emirates, while the United Nations recognized GNA is backed by Turkey.
Referenced as ‘Project Opus,’ Prince’s proposal was described as a “well-funded private military company operation” designed to provide Haftar with armed assault helicopters, intelligence surveillance aircraft, maritime interdiction, drones, and cyber intelligence and targeting capabilities.
“The Project Opus plan also included a component to kidnap or terminate individuals regarded as high value targets in Libya,” the UN monitors wrote.
The report documents how Prince first plotted to invade Libya from Jordan. But after a Jordanian military official questioned his partner, Christiaan Durrant, following a meeting in mid-June 2019 in which Durrant introduced himself under a false name, the operation was shut down and Durrant instructed to leave the country.
Shortly after, a confidential source in South Africa spotted three weapons-grade Super-Puma helicopters being transported across the border, which the UN was alerted to.
When the UN requested to see the customs documents for the helicopters, it was presented with a “badly laid out and an obvious ‘cut and paste’ document”.
Consequently, the document reminded the UN of Prince’s 2014 assassination scheme, code named 'Project BROOKLYN' that aimed to kill or capture Joseph Kony in South Sudan, which employed the same letterhead under the cover of an “oil and gas survey.”
The monitors reported that the air and maritime component of Project Opus had to be aborted in June 2019 after 20 mercenaries arrived in Benghazi and became embroiled in a dispute with Haftar, who was unimpressed with the aircraft procured for the operations and “made threats against the team management.”
Project Opus was subsequently revived for a second time after private military operatives were deployed to Libya in April and May 2020 to destroy high value targets, but would again be aborted due to security issues.
The UN has repeatedly tried to contact Prince to respond to the allegations to no avail.
Prince’s lawyer, Matthew Schwartz, said in a statement that his client “had no involvement in any alleged military operation in Libya in 2019, or at any other time. He did not provide weapons, personnel, or military equipment to anyone in Libya.”
This latest report should not come as much of a surprise. It has been an open secret that the UN has been digging into Prince’s activities in Libya for over a year.
The Australian Broadcasting Company’s investigative documentary “Four Corners” last year also detailed Project Opus and Prince’s failed attempt to help Haftar dislodge the UN-backed government.
And in 2016, The Intercept reported that Prince was “under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering.”