WASHINGTON – The US Justice
Department is investigating whether officials of security firm
Blackwater Worldwide tried to bribe Iraqi government officials in hopes
of retaining the firms work in Iraq, The New York Times reported.
unnamed current and former government officials, the newspaper said
that the departments fraud section opened the inquiry late last year to
determine whether Blackwater employees violated a federal law banning
US corporations from paying bribes to foreign officials.
inquiry is the latest fallout from the 2007 shooting in Nisur Square in
Baghdad, which involved Backwater security guards and left 17 Iraqis
dead, the report said.
A federal judge in December dismissed
criminal charges against five former Blackwater guards implicated in
the episode, but Vice President Joseph Biden recently announced that
the administration of President Barack Obama would appeal that decision.
The investigation was confirmed by three current and former officials speaking on condition of anonymity, the newspaper said.
follows a report in The Times in November that said that top executives
at Blackwater had authorized secret payments of about one million
dollars to Iraqi officials to buy their support after the shooting.
Justice Department has obtained two documents from the State
Department, which had security contracts with the company, that have
raised questions about Blackwaters efforts to influence Iraqi
government officials after the Nisour Square shootings, The Times said.
Worldwide changed its name in February 2009 to Xe Services, following
what the company said was a change of business focus.
however suggested that the rebranding was an effort to polish an image
tarnished by an alleged culture of lawlessness and lack of
accountability among Blackwater workers as they carried out their
duties in Iraq.
The North Carolina-based firm lost its contract
to provide security for US embassy diplomats in Baghdad in May 2009
after Iraqis and critics repeatedly accused it of adopting a cowboy
mentality to duties in the country.