Monday, February 22, 2010

US firm in Afghanistan hired Pinay prostitute: suit

WASHINGTON D.C. – An unidentified Filipina is reportedly at the center of a new federal investigation against Blackwater, the controversial private military company.

Two former employees – husband and wife Brad and Melan Davis – are suing Blackwater under the False Claims Act, a federal law that allows civilians to file charges against federal contractors.

The couple alleged that Blackwater (now known as Xe Services LLC) kept an unidentified Filipina prostitute in the payroll for a State Department contract in Afghanistan.

The North Carolina-based company allegedly charged the government for her time working for Blackwater male employees in Kabul.

The alleged prostitute's salary was categorized as part of the company's “Morale Welfare Recreation” expenses.

Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers could get a cut (reportedly 15% to 25%) from any money recovered from a suit.

The government recovered nearly $22 billion using this law between 1987 and 2008.

The allegations were contained in papers filed before the Virginia Eastern District Court that were unsealed over a week ago.

“One of the first items I uncovered was Blackwater billing for payments to a prostitute. I came across the name of a female Phillipino (sic) on the expenses submitted for cost reimbursables in connection with Task Force 4,” Melan Davis charged.

“At that time, to my knowledge, the only third country nationals we had in country in Afghanistan were Columbians. I wanted to figure out whether we Phillipinio (sic) third country nationals as well because I had not seen any others beyond this name,” she added.

Mrs. Davis continued, “I contacted Susan Bergman who was the logistics operations manager in Kabul. She informed me that the woman was not a third country national hired to serve as a static guard, but rather was a prostitute, who had been ousted from the hotel where she was working for several Blackwater men. As a result they put her on the Blackwater payroll. To the best of my knowledge, Blackwater billed per plane tickets and monthly salary to the United States under the Task Orders.”

The papers did not identify the Filipina or where she is now. The Davis allegations indicated she was hired by Blackwater in December 2005.

Her testimony may prove crucial in pressing at least this part of the fraud complaint against Blackwater.

Blackwater recruitment in RP

Controversy erupted recently over reports Blackwater was secretly recruiting and training mercenaries in the Philippines.

The company had planned to open a jungle survival skills training facility at the Subic Freeport zone, but scrapped it following an uproar in Manila.

But other sectors accused them of secretly training Filipinos and other nationals for work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Philippines forbids its nationals from working in Iraq out of security concerns, but this prohibition has been largely circumvented by other US contractors operating from Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.

A United Nations report expressed concern about recruitment methods used by Blackwater and similar companies in the Philippines.

Washington-based journalist Wayne Madsen alleged that Blackwater trained up to a thousand Filipinos, Indians, Nepalese, Fijians and Bangladeshis in Subic.

Madsen charged further that Blackwater was operating through a proxy because it was denied a lease in the former US naval base three years ago.

The Davis allegations revealed other incidents of alleged overpricing, substandard weapons and services, and employment of poorly trained personnel.

Blackwater also figured in a shooting incident in Iraq that killed innocent civilians, which led to federal indictments in the US. - by Rodney J. Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau