The Intercept has revealed that the FBI is investigating a failed 2019 mercenary plot related to the offensive led by Khalifa Haftar on Tripoli in Libya in April 2019, adding that the FBI has sought to determine what role, if any, private military contractor Erik Prince had in the undertaking, according to six people with knowledge of the investigation.
The Intercept said Saturday that the FBI had refused to comment on the report, adding that US federal investigators last summer began probing Prince’s involvement in the attempted sale of Jordanian military helicopters and arms as part of the 2019 plan to help Haftar overthrow the country’s United Nations-backed government, according to four of the people familiar with the investigation.
Prince, founder of notorious Blackwater, has denied any involvement in the undertaking, dubbed Project Opus, and told the New York Times that he had never met or spoken to Haftar. Prince’s attorney, Matthew Schwartz, said that his client had nothing to do with the mercenary plot.
“As Mr. Prince has said repeatedly, he had absolutely no involvement in any alleged military operation in Libya in 2019, and the report which insinuated otherwise was based on an incomplete investigation and relied on biased sources.” Schwartz told The Intercept.
The Intercept added that FBI agents from the Washington Field Office had inquired into Prince’s role in creating and then trying to market a modified crop duster as a military aircraft for use in conflicts around the world.
"The airplanes were meant to be used in a larger effort to help Haftar take control of Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Prince worked with Jordanian royal Feisal ibn al-Hussein to arrange the sale and transfer of weapons, according to three people with knowledge of the arrangement. This summer, FBI agents sought to interview Feisal and several others who work with him, according to two people with knowledge of the FBI’s activities in Jordan. Feisal, through the Jordanian Embassy in Washington, previously denied that he had any involvement in the plot or any relationship with Prince.” The report added.
Schwartz, Prince’s lawyer, said in an email that his client resigned over “disagreements with the management performance and direction of the company. Any suggestion that his resignation had anything to do with the UN Panel’s report is false.”
The Intercept said FBI agents have been scrutinizing Prince’s global network of businesses and operations since at least 2020, according to three of the people familiar with the probe, adding that during the Trump presidency, FBI agents sought witnesses and documents to help them understand Prince’s role in the Libya arms deal involving surplus military aircraft and weapons from the Jordanian military, according to the three sources with knowledge of the investigation.
More recently, according to the report, the FBI sought permission from the British government to interview a UK army general who, while working as an adviser to Jordan’s king, investigated and ultimately helped stop the weapons sale and shipments to Libya, according to one of the people familiar with the FBI investigation.
It is unclear if the UK approved the request or if the FBI has conducted the interview. The role of the British general, Alex MacIntosh, was disclosed by The Intercept in February. A spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defense told The Intercept via email that the Ministry cooperates fully with law enforcement bodies when engaged by them, saying Brigadier Macintosh is a respected British Army officer who served with distinction alongside the Jordanian Armed Forces during his time in post.