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US military contractors in Iraq 'employed prostitutes, smuggled booze' Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

US military contractors in Iraq 'employed prostitutes, smuggled booze'

Balad Air Base is home to a squadron of F-16 fighter jets bombing IS [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 May, 2017

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A US security firm contracted by the US government to secure an Iraqi air base turned a blind eye to its employees hiring prostitutes, smuggling alcohol and numerous security breaches.
A US security firm contracted by the US government to secure an Iraqi air base turned a blind eye to its employees hiring prostitutes, smuggling alcohol and numerous security breaches, a report by AP revealed on Wednesday.

Sallyport Global ignored the violations while carrying out the $700 million contract to protect Balad Air Base north of Baghdad, company employees and two fired investigators said.

"There were accusations of prostitution, of human trafficking, of sex trafficking. Females brought in from other countries in Baghdad that came from other countries," Kristie King, an internal investigator who was fired by Sallyport, said.

"Sallyport decided they didn't want us to look into it and shut us down with the threat of being released from employment if we dug into it any deeper," she added.

More than 150 documents obtained by AP as well as interviews with more than a half-dozen former or current Sallyport employees revealed numerous violations at the base, home to F-16 fighter jets taking part in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group.

The contractors were reportedly customers of a Baghdad prostitution ring, hiring four Ethiopian women, who had worked as prostitutes, on the base as housekeepers while they still sent money back their pimp in the capital.

Staff on the base, where alcohol was prohibited, reportedly routinely flew in smuggled alcohol in such high volumes that a plane once almost crashed on the tarmac under the weight.

Flight line workers, who directed aeroplanes on the runways and handled cargo, showed up drunk for work and in one instance passed around a bowlful of jelly babies soaked in vodka.

Kristie King and her colleague Robert Cole uncovered that Iraqi Sallyport staff were working with Iran-backed Shia militias, which stole three large generators off the base for a total loss of $1 million.

"Nobody reported anything. It was a disaster and it was covered up. That is absolutely covered up," Cole said.

The investigators said that Sallyport advised them to keep two sets of books about potential crimes and contract violations: "One for the government to see and one for the government not to see".

Sallyport has denied the accusations, saying that it has followed all contracting rules at the base.

"The company takes any suggestion of wrongdoing at Balad very seriously," the security firm said in a statement.

"Sallyport has a strong record of providing security and life support services in challenging war zones like Iraq and plays a major but unheralded role in the war against [IS]."

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