U.S. firm in Iraq ignores smuggling, security risks for F-16 jets.
An American company that was paid nearly $700 million to secure an Iraqi base for F-16 fighter jets turned a blind eye to alcohol smuggling, theft, security violations, and allegations of sex trafficking – then terminated investigators who uncovered wrongdoing, an Associated Press investigation has found. Documents and interviews with two former internal investigators and a half-dozen former or current Sallyport Global staff describe schemes at Iraq’s Balad Air Base that were major contract violations at best and, if proven, illegal. The investigators were fired abruptly on March 12 – just two months ago – and immediately flown out of Iraq. They say they had been looking into timesheet fraud allegations and were set to interview company managers, whom they considered suspects. In a statement to the AP, Sallyport said it follows all contracting rules at the base, home to a squadron of F-16s that are indispensable to the operations of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group. In one allegation, informants told the investigators that “flight line” staff, who directed airplanes on the runways and handled cargo, were showing up drunk. At one point they passed around a bowl of gummy bears soaked in vodka. Balad is controlled by the Iraqi government. Americans have been there off and on since 2003. The base was evacuated in June 2014, when IS began overrunning Iraqi territory. When the Americans returned, Sallyport’s job was to keep Balad safe for the F-16s – and their Iraqi pilots. The contract required investigations into potential crimes and contract violations. That was the job of Cole and King.