Picture: 123RF/ZABELIN
Picture: 123RF/ZABELIN

Dakar — A company run by private security firm Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, has registered a subsidiary in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a mandate to extract minerals and timber and conduct financial operations, corporate filings show.

Prince, who renamed Blackwater and sold it in 2010 after several of its employees were indicted on unlawful killing charges in connection with their work as US government contractors during the Iraq war, has run Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group (FSG) since 2014.

FSG has close ties to state-owned Chinese investment company Citic and provides security, aviation and logistics services to Chinese firms operating in Africa.

FSG has owned a small trucking company called Cheetah Logistics in the DRC since 2015, but the new subsidiary, Frontier Services Group Congo, has a more expansive mandate, according to a filing with the business registry in the DRC.

Among its aims are “the exploration, exploitation and commercialisation of minerals”, forest logging, security, transport, construction and “all financial, investment and project financing operations, both public and private”. The filing, shows Frontier Services Group Congo was registered on August 20 2018 and formally established on November 13 2018.

FSG did not respond to a request for comment.

In its 2018 annual report, released in April, it listed the DRC, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia as countries it had identified for investment in connection with China’s Belt and Road global development strategy.

Besides his work for FSG, Prince has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters in April. He has also tried unsuccessfully to convince the Trump administration to replace US soldiers in Afghanistan with security contractors.

FSG owns aviation companies based in Kenya and Malta and provides security training to companies in China. It says it is also active in more than a dozen countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.

Prince told the Financial Times earlier in 2019 he was aiming to raise up to half a billion dollars through a new fund to invest in mining metals like cobalt, copper and lithium, which are needed for electric car batteries. The DRC accounts for about 60% of the world’s cobalt output and is Africa’s largest producer of copper.

Chinese companies have snapped up valuable concessions in recent years as Western firms reduce their footprint in the DRC, which is mired in armed conflict and political instability.

Blackwater, which Prince founded in 1997, was contracted by the US state department to provide security during the Iraq war. In 2007, Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. One of the employees involved was convicted of murder in December and three others have been convicted of manslaughter.

Blackwater agreed in 2010 to pay $42m in fines for hundreds of violations of US export rules, including making unauthorised proposals to train troops in southern Sudan. The company now operates as Virginia-based Academi.
Reuters