(MintPress) – Two employees of Academi, a mercenary army formerly known as Blackwater, pleaded guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges last week, a slap on the wrist for the security firm alleged to be involved in extensive illegal arms trafficking.
Academi received more than $100 million in government contracts to assist with security work in Afghanistan and previously during the Iraq war 2003-2011.
Judge Louise W. Flanagan of Federal District Court in North Carolina dismissed all charges against two of the officials, Andrew Howell, Blackwater’s former general counsel, and Ana Bundy, a former vice president.
Gary Jackson, a former president and William Matthews, a former executive vice president, plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to records keeping. Jackson and Matthews will receive three years of probation, four months of home confinement and fines of $5,000.
This is not the first time that the firm has come under fire for illicit dealings. Blackwater paid a $7.5 million fine in August 2012 to settle federal criminal charges related to arms smuggling and other crimes.
The fine followed a 2008 raid on Blackwater headquarters in Moyock, NC. Federal agents seized 22 illegal weapons, including 17 AK-47s.
The most serious accusations against the firm followed a September 2007 massacre in Iraq that left 17 civilians dead and 20 wounded. The 2007 killing was the worst slaughter of Iraqi civilians by a private security contractor during the war.
Manslaughter charges for five of the six defendants were dismissed by federal judge Ricardo Urbina who cited violations to the defendants’ constitutional rights during trial proceedings. One Blackwater employee named Jeremy Ridgeway plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.
In a sworn testimony Ridgeway said his convoy, “opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians … killing at least fourteen people.”
Investigators with the U.S. military and the FBI determined the guards used deadly force without justification.
Controversy still surrounds the incident after Blackwater executives allegedly gave a $1 million payment to Iraqi leaders as a means to silence criticism of the killings.
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