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Home WORLD Erik Prince, Trump Ally, Denies Role in Libya Mercenary Operation

Erik Prince, Trump Ally, Denies Role in Libya Mercenary Operation

NAIROBI, Kenya — Responding to accusations by United Nations investigators that he violated an international arms embargo, Erik Prince, the Blackwater Worldwide founder and prominent supporter of Donald J. Trump, denied playing any role in an $80 million mercenary operation in Libya in 2019. And he insisted that key findings of the U.N. investigation were entirely wrong.

“Erik Prince didn’t breach any arms embargo and had nothing to do with sending aircraft, drones, arms or people to Libya — period,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.

A confidential report submitted Thursday to the U.N. Security Council and obtained by The Times accused Mr. Prince of breaching the decade-old arms embargo on Libya by taking part in an ill-fated mercenary operation in 2019 that sought to support a powerful Libyan commander in his drive to overthrow Libya’s internationally backed government.

Mr. Prince, who came under international scrutiny after his Blackwater contractors massacred 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007, has been a prominent supporter of Mr. Trump in recent years. His sister, Betsy DeVos, was Mr. Trump’s education secretary.

Speaking by phone, Mr. Prince challenged key assertions in the U.N. report, lashed out at critics and played down his links to the former president. He said he met Mr. Trump just once as president, at a Veterans Day event, and never discussed Libya or any other policy matter with him.

“I was not foreign policy adviser for the president,” he added, apparently in reference to news media articles using that description. “So stop characterizing me as that. It’s not true.”

Mr. Prince and his lawyer acknowledged they had not seen the U.N. report, or the many specific allegations listed in it, which includes dozens of pages of PowerPoint presentations, contracts, bank transfers, text messages and other evidence. And Mr. Prince did not offer any hard proof to counter those allegations.

Gregg Smith, who worked with Mr. Prince between 2014 and 2016 and is cited in the report, said the mercenary operation described by investigators in Libya had many similarities to a project Mr. Prince headed in South Sudan in 2014.

“It’s the same people and the same aircraft,” Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Prince’s broad denials increase the stakes over the confidential report, which is currently before the Security Council and is likely to be made public next month. The report opens the possibility that Mr. Prince could be punished with an asset freeze and a travel ban, although such sanctions are rarely imposed by the United Nations.

A central accusation of the report is that Mr. Prince pitched the $80 million mercenary scheme to the Libyan militia commander Khalifa Hifter during a meeting in Cairo in April 2019, only days after Mr. Hifter launched a sweeping military drive to seize Libya’s capital, Tripoli.

Mr. Prince insisted that was impossible. “I never met General Hifter,” he said. “Was not in Egypt in 2019. Never even…

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