Government Suing Mercenaries for Fraud

The private security contractor Triple Canopy is being sued by the federal government for fraud allegedly committed on contracts to provide security in Iraq. The Department of Justice claims that the company “submitted false claims for unqualified security guards under a contract to provide security in Iraq.” The $10 million contract was to provide “variety of security services at Al Asad Airbase,” and to “support related to the government’s relief and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.” As the Project On Government Oversight reports, Triple Canopy has lauded it performance in Iraq while having a history of corporate malpractice:

“[Triple Canopy] went further than simply billing the Government for unqualified personnel,” the complaint alleges. “It falsified the documents in its files to show that the unqualified guards each qualified as a ‘Marksman’ on a U.S. Army qualification course.” According to the complaint, the government paid Triple Canopy a total of $10.4 million on the contract between September 2009 and July 2010 in reliance on falsified billing documents.

The government’s False Claims Act lawsuit, which also seeks damages on several common law claims, is based on a whistleblower complaint filed in March 2011 by former Triple Canopy employee Omar Badr, who claims he witnessed the alleged fraud at Al Asad and reported it to several company officials in May 2010. Ironically, one month later, Triple Canopy CEO Ignacio “Iggy” Balderas testified before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan (CWC), where he boasted about his company’s “legal, moral and ethical manner” and about providing its personnel “the right training and equipment.” He even specifically complained about the problem of contractors being allowed to work in Iraq despite lacking the required certification.

Since its founding in 2003, Triple Canopy has undergone a meteoric rise in the private security industry. It has won nearly $2 billion in government business, most of which has been with the State Department and Department of Defense for security services in Iraq.

The company’s rapid growth has not been without controversy. In 2006, two former Triple Canopy employees sued the company claiming they had been wrongfully terminated for reporting that they saw a co-worker deliberately shoot Iraqi civilians. Triple Canopy did not deny that the shootings occurred, but it disputed the circumstances that provoked the shootings and whether any civilians were hurt. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

In 2009, Jeremy Scahill reported on the Obama Administration’s use of Triple Canopy in place of the mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater. The company, founded by former US Army special forces soldiers, received contracts to provide private security services for US officials in Iraq and provided private security for other contractors such as KBR. Triple Canopy has been part of the State Department’s secret Worldwide Personal Protective Service program, which is a privatized wing of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security division.


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