The U.S. Army Contracting Agency, ignoring protests from human rights organizations,
is defending its award of an Iraq Reconstruction Security Support Services (RSSS)
contract to Aegis Defense Services of Great Britain. The CEO of Aegis is former
Scots Guard Regiment Lt. Col Tim Spicer, a notorious international mercenary who
has been connected to guerrilla wars, extrajudicial killings, and coups in Africa,
Asia, Europe, and the South Pacific. Spicer is the former CEO of Sandline International,
a Bahamas-registered firm. Spicer, through a complex web of interlocking directorships,
was involved in diamond mining in Sierra Leone through Diamond Works and oil exploration
in Angola, Uganda, and other countries through Branch Energy. One of his Diamond
Works partners was Simon Mann, convicted and imprisoned in Zimbabwe last year
for trying to stage a coup in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. Although Spicer denied
it, Sandline was thought to be a European front organization for the now-defunct
South African mercenary firm Executive Outcomes. In 1997, the Prime Minister of
Papua New Guinea hired Spicer and Sandline to put down a rebellion on the secessionist
island of Bougainville and retake control of the Pangana nickel mine for the firm
Rio Tinto Zinc. Upon learning of the mercenary deal, code named "Operation
Oyster," the commander of the Papua New Guinea armed forces, Brig. Gen. Jerry
Singirok, staged an abortive military coup against Prime Minister Julius Chan.
The Papua New Guinea military arrested Spicer along with British, South African
and Ethiopian mercenaries. Spicer was threatened with execution on a number of
Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption later revealed that on
February 5, 1997, $18 million to finance the Papua New Guinea coup was transferred
to Sandline's account at the Hong Kong and Shanghai bank (account number 600774426).
The account holders were listed as Simon Mann, Lafras Luitingh (of Executive
Outcomes), Eeben Barlow (of Executive Outcomes), and Anthony L. R. Buckingham
(of Executive Outcomes and Branch Energy). The money was traced to the Hong
Kong-based Jardine Matheson Group, which had significant gold and oil interests
in Papua New Guinea and also had a strategic partnership with Kroll Associates'
murky London operation. After the $18 million of the $36 million contract was
transferred to Port Moresby, it simply vanished, according to the Hong Kong
In 1996, another Sandline operation, code named "Operation Contravene,"
began to clear the way for a mercenary invasion of the island. Bougainville's
Prime Minister Theodore Miriung, suspected by Papua New Guinea of being a spy
for pro-independence rebels, was assassinated by Papua New Guinea forces on
October 13, 1996.
After Spicer's arrest in Papua New Guinea, one of his former military comrades
was not surprised. His take on Spicer: "He was the most arrogant, pompous
bastard I have ever met . . . He was always very pleased with himself, and I'm
not surprised one bit by what's happened."
Papua New Guinea's Judicial Commission headed by Australian Justice Warwick
John Andrew tied all the players together in his ruling, "The controllers
of Sandline International are obviously Mr. Buckingham, Mr. [Michael] Grunberg
[of Diamond Works], and at least to some extent Mr. Spicer . . . There is a
strong inference that Sandline Holdings Limited may be something of a joint
venture between the interests of Mr. Buckingham and the interests of Mr. Barlow
and Executive Outcomes . . . The information provided by Sandline Holdings that
they are entirely separate from Executive Outcomes cannot be correct, but the
exact nature of their relationship seems clouded behind a web of interlocking
companies whose ownership is difficult to trace. The arms and transport helicopters
and helicopter gunships for the Bougainville operation were shipped from Belarus,
through a Lebanese front company, by a Bulgarian air freight company. The agent
for the sale was a London-based firm called Triton Sal, run by a Russian businessman.
(Another UK-based company, Consolidated Sales Corp. (CSC) -- registered in the
British Virgin Islands -- supplied similar helicopters to Uganda and Rwanda.
One of the helicopters sold to Uganda was the one Sudan Vice President John
Garang was on when it crashed in mysterious circumstances).
It is interesting to note that according to the Pat Finucane Center in Derry,
Ireland, Buckingham traveled in 1995 to Baghdad to meet Saddam Hussein's Oil
Minister Safa Hadi Jawad to discuss partnering investments. The Irish center
has been fighting a battle with countries that grant contracts to Spicer. In
1992, two of Spicer's Scot's Guard men, Mark Wright and James Fisher, killed
Peter McBride, an unarmed teenager, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They were
later convicted for murder, a conviction that was upheld on appeal.
Spicer was also involved in UN sanctions busting in war-torn Sierra Leone.
British Undersecretary of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Dennis
MacShane stated that Spicer's Sandline, "violated a UN arms embargo and
British law in an affair that caused a political crisis in Britain and was described
as …not only embarrassing but I would say quite damaging to the government
at the time." The sanctions busting by Sandline involved the use of Executive
Outcomes and Russian aircraft to purchase weapons in Bulgaria and secretly ship
them to Sierra Leone. In 1997, after Sierra Leone's President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah
terminated a security contract with Executive Outcomes after pressure from the
International Monetary Fund, he was warned by an Executive Outcomes mercenary
that in 90 days he would fall. Eighty-nine days later, Kabbah was ousted in
a coup by Maj. Johnny Paul Koromah, a Sandhurst granduate who had been trained
by Executive Outcomes.
U.S. hires notorious mercenary "Tumbledown Tim" Spicer -- veteran of
coups and rebellions from Sierra Leone to Papua New Guinea. Now, he's bringing
his brand of "security" to hapless Iraq.
An April 24, 1998 letter from Sandline's law firm S. J. Berwin & Co to the
late British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook outlined Sandline's close ties to the
U.S. government in the Sierra Leone sanctions busting:
". . . our client [Sandline] kept informed the U.S. State Department
at the highest level, including John Hirsch, the U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone,
Charles Snyder, Director, Office of Regional Affairs [currently George W. Bush's
outgoing Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs] and Dennis Linskey,
Chief, West and Southern Africa Division. Furthermore, following support having
been given for the proposed operation by both the U.S. Department of State and
the U.S. Defense Department. . . we understand that Michael Thomas, the Country
Desk Officer for Sierra Leone at the U.S. Department of State met with Philip
Parham, the Africa Watcher at the British Embassy in Washington indicating the
U.S. Government's full support for Sandline International's involvement."
Sandline also had close links to the Pentagon. On June 24, 1997, the Pentagon
and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) hosted a closed conference inside
the Pentagon titled "The Privatization of National security Functions in
Sub-Saharan Africa." Present were none other than Spicer, Barlow, Grunberg,
Sandline's U.S. representative Bernie McCabe (a former Green Beret), and retired
DIA chief Gen. Ed Soyster of Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), now
owned by L-3 Communications, and which, like Spicer's Aegis, has lucrative contracts
in occupied Iraq. Also present was Charles Snyder, Executive Outcomes' Nick
van den Bergh, and a representative of Texaco. CIA, DIA, U.S. Army Intelligence
and Security Command (INSCOM), Special Forces, and NSA personnel were also in
Spicer was also involved in secret negotiations with Angola's UNITA guerrillas
on behalf of the British Foreign Office after Diamond Works employees were kidnaped
by the rebels in 1998. At the time, UNITA guerrillas had joined the Ugandan-Rwandan
war against Congo's President Laurent Kabila. Spicer has also reportedly been
involved in backing governments in civil war-torn Sri Lanka and Nepal. His other
companies have included Strategic Consulting International, Crisis and Risk
Management, and Trident Maritime.
Ironically, Dyncorp protested the award of the Iraq RSSS contract to Aegis,
citing the latter's questionable business ethics. Dyncorp has been acsused of
covering up incidents involving its security personnel in Kosovo and Bosnia.
The incidents involved child prostitution and other criminal activity. Nevertheless,
Dyncorp, which has its own knowledge about Spicer's activities around the world,
is uniquely placed to question Aegis and its involvement in Iraq. In its decision
to reject Dyncorp's charge that Aegis lacked integrity, the U.S. Government
Accountability Office (GAO) stated, "Once we reached the conclusion
that DynCorp was reasonably excluded from further consideration, the company
lacked standing to challenge the integrity of the awardee, Aegis."