A confidential report of the United Nations said the founder of US private military contractor, Blackwater, Erik Prince, violated UN arms embargo in Libya and tried to topple the Government of National Accord (GNA) twice in 2019.
The report seen by The New York Times said Prince, the former head of the security contractor Blackwater Worldwide and a prominent supporter of former President Donald Trump, revealed how Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries, armed with attack aircraft, gunboats and cyberwarfare capabilities, to eastern Libya to help Khalifa Haftar at the height of the latter's aggression on Tripoli in 2019.
"As part of the operation, which the report said cost $80 million, the mercenaries also planned to form a hit squad that could track down and kill selected Libyan commanders." The report says.
The report says that as part of Project Opus operation, there were plans shown on a PowerPoint presentation to Haftar listing possible “high value targets” for assassination, including Abdulrauf Kara, a major commander in Tripoli - Head of Special Deterrence Force- and two other Libyan commanders who hold Irish passports, suggesting the mercenaries were ready to hit European Union citizens if necessary.
According to US and UN officials familiar with the events, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, Haftar had approved a plan to acquire helicopters and experienced, Western-trained military experts to bolster his efforts to storm Tripoli.
"Around April 2019, Haftar procured the services of a group of private security and logistics contractors based in the UAE, and they collectively referred to themselves in the documents as the Opus Team.” The report adds.
According to financial records and other documents obtained by investigators, the chief logistical and financial backers of the team were Opus Capital Assets and Lancaster6, two companies headquartered in Dubai. Lancaster6 is headed by Christiaan Durrant, a former Australian air force pilot. Durrant also has held senior management positions with Opus Capital Assets.
“They [Opus team leaders] were adamant that they had all the approvals, including permission from the Trump administration to acquire the Cobras, said the official, who, citing the ongoing investigations, agreed to an interview on the condition that neither he nor his country be identified. There was no official approval.” The report reads.
As part of the investigation, U.N. officials have sought to interview Prince, a former Navy SEAL and private military services contractor, current and former U.N. officials said. The U.N. panel was seeking information about at least two phone calls made by Prince to Jordanian officials, allegedly asking that the Cobras be released to the Opus team, the officials said. Prince is a former business associate of Durrant’s.
A lawyer representing Prince said the former military contractor had broken no laws. “Erik Prince had absolutely nothing to do with any operation in Libya in 2019, or at any other time,” the lawyer, Matthew Schwartz, said in an email.
"For Opus, Jordan’s refusal to release the helicopters was a serious — and ultimately fatal — blow to the mission. Despite confirmations by all hierarchical parties involved that [the government of Jordan] would support the Opus operation,” the report indicates.
It added that the planned mercenary raid fell apart within days after the report was penned. Fearing that they might be arrested, the mercenaries left Libya in their inflatable vessels and fled to Malta. They arrived on July 2 and were detained by customs officials, then released.