When the Obama administration, beginning last year, tried to arm moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, the Pentagon did business with arms dealers who have deeply troubling backgrounds, according to sources and government records. BuzzFeed News has learned that:
▸ The main subcontractor in Bulgaria, where many of the arms were supposed to be acquired for the U.S., had a documented link to a notorious alleged organized crime figure, nicknamed “the Baron.”
▸ The president of a key American subcontractor, Regulus Global, faced federal criminal bribery charges, which were dismissed after his trial ended in a hung jury.
▸ The CEO of Regulus Global was found by state securities regulators to have committed “fraud or deceit” against an investor.
The revelations raise questions about the security checks the Pentagon uses in crucial counterterrorism programs and about how business executives with underworld ties or past legal trouble can win military contracts worth millions of taxpayer dollars.
The revelations raise questions about how business executives with underworld ties or past legal trouble can win lucrative military contracts.
As BuzzFeed News disclosed earlier this year, the Defense Department’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) issued a $26.7 million weapons contract in December 2014 to a tiny U.S. company called Purple Shovel. It was part of Obama’s $500 million “Train and Equip” program to aid moderate Syrian rebels. SOCOM oversees the operations of America’s elite and secretive commandos, such as the Navy SEALs and the Army Special Forces. SOCOM and the Pentagon declined to comment for this story.
Purple Shovel, a company with no public record of major federal contracts, is run by a former Army counterintelligence sergeant named Benjamin Worrell. It didn’t buy the weapons itself, but outsourced the deal to other companies.
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