America's least favorite mercenary firm got another black eye on Tuesday when it admitted to key facts behind 17 federal criminal charges. The security contractor Academi LLC, previously known as Xe and even more previously known as Blackwater Worldwide, agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle charges related to arms smuggling and unauthorized possession of automatic weapons. That's of course on top of a $42 million settlement it reached with the State Department in 2010 for violating the Arms Export Control Act and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations. So what did these guys allegedly do this time? The Associated Press has the details:
The list of violations includes possessing automatic weapons in the United States without registration, lying to federal firearms regulators about weapons provided to the king of Jordan, passing secret plans for armored personnel carriers to Sweden and Denmark without U.S. government approval and illegally shipping body armor overseas.
In an act of neighborly hospitality, the company also allegedly provided training to the Canadian military without the needed U.S. licenses. Using a catchall term for the company, which keeps changing its name after successive scandals, the FBI's Chris Briese didn't mince worlds in court. “For an extended period of time, Academi/Blackwater operated in a manner which demonstrated systemic disregard for U.S. Government laws and regulations,” he said. “Today’s announcement should serve as a warning to others that allegations of wrongdoing will be aggressively investigated.”
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The question on everyone's minds now: Will Blackwater change its name yet again? It already attempted a different kind of damage control after Tuesday's settlement, telling Politico's Josh Gerstein and others that the settlement "does not involve any guilty plea or admit to any violations" in what it called a "legacy" matter. That statement flirted with getting the firm in trouble, the AP notes, because a clause in the settlement "bars the company from making any public statements 'contradicting any aspect' of the agreement." The Justice Department has declined to say if that press push violated the terms of the settlement. Regardless, maybe it's time for the firm to start anew again. Fourth time's the charm?