To stifle criticism of civilian killings, the American mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater approved payoffs of up to $1 million for Iraqi politicians, according to former company officials who spoke to The New York Times.
“Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees,” the Times reported. “American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”
The paper added that the four whistleblowers, who were all former Blackwater executives, accused president Gary Jackson of personally approving the payoffs. They did not name the recipients and could not say whether the money was ever delivered.
One of the sources told the Times that officials at the Interior Ministry, where decisions over company operating licenses are made, were the intended recipients of the payments, which were aimed at quelling criticism and eliciting support.
The accusations are only the latest in a long series of scandal and controversy for the firm, now known as Xe.