The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced on Tuesday that private security contractors Blackwater [JURIST news archive], now known as Academi [corporate website], agreed to settle [agreement, PDF] several federal criminal charges dealing with export and firearm violations. Academi agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine. The company also agreed to acknowledge a statement of facts [text, PDF] and to continue to cooperate with law enforcement in future investigations. In exchange, the government has agreed to defer prosecution of Academi for the crimes discussed in the agreement. The agreement is voidable if Academi attempts to deny the statement of facts in the future or if the company engages in future illegal activity. The statement of facts stipulates that Academi acted on its own initiative in
Blackwater and its employees have faced legal controversy in recent years for as a result of the company's prior business practices. In January the company reached a confidential settlement agreement with survivors and families of victims in a 2007 shooting incident [JURIST reports] in the Nisour Square area of Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. Two ex-Blackwater contractors were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced [JURIST reports] to two-and-a-half years in prison last year for their role in the shooting deaths of two Afghan nationals and the wounding of a third. In April a federal grand jury indicted five former Blackwater executives [JURIST report] on charges of weapons violations and lying to investigators. In 2010 the Iraqi government ordered 250 former Blackwater employees to leave Iraq in reaction to the dismissal of criminal charges [JURIST reports] against the guards involved in the 2007 shooting incident. The same month, the DOJ also opened an investigation [JURIST report] into whether Blackwater bribed the Iraqi government to be permitted to continue operating in Iraq following the 2007 shootings. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts expired and were not renewed.