On 3 April 2017, the Washington Post reported that Erik Prince, brother to Betsy DeVos and founder of the notorious mercenary contracting firm Blackwater (now known as Academi), was an unofficial envoy for the incoming Trump administration during a clandestine meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian described as being “close” to President Vladimir Putin.
The meeting, according to the Post, was arranged by the United Arab Emirates and took place around 11 January 2017, roughly a week before President Donald Trump took office:
The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.
Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.
The Post, which has broken a number of major stories about the relationship between President Trump, those he has encircled himself with, and Russia, described Prince as an “avid” Trump supporter who donated $250,000 to the New York businessman’s campaign and whose sister serves as Secretary of Education.
We reached out to press officials for President Trump, but have not yet received a response. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the Post that the administration was not aware of the meeting, saying ““We are not aware of any meetings, and Erik Prince had no role in the transition.”
A statement provided to the Post by a spokesman for Prince acknowledged that the meeting took place, but said the meeting had “nothing to do” with President Trump, adding:
Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?
Prince gained notoriety during the Iraq war by providing security contractors via his firm Blackwater. Four guards employed by the company were convicted in 2014 of shooting dozens of unarmed Iraqi civilians, killing 17, in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007. Since the Gulf War, Prince has maintained a relatively low profile, renaming Blackwater twice (first Xe and now Academi; the company claims it is no longer associated with either Prince or the Blackwater name).
In February 2017, BuzzFeed reported that Prince was launching a new border security endeavor in China with his new organization, Frontier Services Group, which operates two bases in Yunnan and XinJiang regions. Although company officials denied it would be another Blackwater, a former associate told BuzzFeed that Prince “is making Frontier Services a full-on private military company.”