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Private Military Rivalries

First, a little background about why this is so interesting: Executive Outcomes is considered the ur-private military firm; the new corporate model upon which many others are based: military services could be contracted from businessmen with databases, not from ragtag "dogs of war." When South Africa outlawed that sort of company, Executive Outcomes, located in South Africa, closed up shop. Though there was a network of companies thought to be affiliated with EO, the British PMF Sandline is widely considered the be EO reborn. Sandline closed up shop in April.  However, until recently, if you typed into your browser, you were automatically forwarded into the site of a US company, Northbridge Services Group. The original Executive Outcomes site was actually at (link via the WayBack Machine). So it is my impression that Northbridge has been trying to pass itself off as one of the EO spin-offs. There was some overlap in personnel between EO and both companies.

So here's the new story:

Federal prosecutors say Pasquale John DiPofi  -- described in court proceedings as a security contractor, mercenary and bodyguard for entertainers -- threatened a French businessman who was trying to collect a $23-million debt the government of Sierra Leone owed to a company that provided military assistance during the country's civil war in the 1990s.

DiPofi was arrested at Detroit Metro Airport on Sept. 4 after returning from a 2 1/2 -month trip to Iraq. . . .

According to the criminal complaint, Executive Outcomes, a private military company in South Africa, contracted with the government of Sierra Leone in 1995-97 to provide military equipment, security and training during the African nation's civil war. The company was to receive $30 million.

DiPofi, a married father of two, was president of the U.S. arm of the now-defunct company. He also is a director of Northbridge Services Group Ltd., a British-based private military company.

When the government of Sierra Leone failed to pay Executive Outcomes, the complaint said, the company asked a sister firm, Executive Outcomes of Panama, to collect the debt. It hired Michael Grunberg of Paris  to try to negotiate with Sierra Leone.

In January 2001, Executive Outcomes sued the government in a Sierra Leone court. Although both sides agreed to settle the dispute for $23 million, the government didn't pay. Later, the Sierra Leone government produced documents from Executive Outcomes of Mt. Clemens and its president, DiPofi, which said he was the person to whom the debt was owed.

The criminal complaint said Grunberg and a London law firm later discovered that DiPofi and others had submitted fraudulent documents to the government of Sierra Leone to discredit Grunberg and bolster DiPofi's claim.

In August 2002, Grunberg received an anonymous fax at his home in Paris warning him that he had underestimated his adversaries and should be concerned.

A few days later, he received an envelope containing seven color photos of the interior and exterior of his  homes in England.

The same day, Grunberg received a phone call on his private line warning him to settle the differences with "the other party."

"Don't be greedy," the caller said. "If you have not made contact by Friday, then I will make my move. I have been with you for two months, and it will be swift and you won't know anything about it."

Grunberg contacted the police and hired bodyguards.

First of all, though the article doesn't mention Sandline. Grunberg was rather recently affiliated with Sandline. I would guess that Grunberg's attorney mentioned in the article is Richard Slowe of S. J. Berwin, through whom Grunberg threatened to sue me a while back. Slowe was also the attorney Sandline used to sue the Government of Papua New Guinea when they didn't pay their Sandline bill.

Though, in  my personal opinion, Grunberg is a vain, irritating man*, if  DiPofi operates as described in the allegations, he should be in jail now, not out on bail. It sounds like Grunberg was lucky not to wake up with a horsehead in his bed. I find it noteworthy that a Director of Northbridge is accused of using mafia tactics to intimidate a business rival.

See also the US Department of Justice.

UPDATE: Here is another (AP)version of the story, suggesting that DiPofi's Executive Outcomes had nothing in common with the South African comapny of that name except the same name:

Two Michigan men tried to defraud the government of Sierra Leone and a private military company of $23 million, according to a federal indictment.

Eastpointe police Officer Christopher Belan, 40, and New Baltimore security contractor Pasquale DiPofi, 33, were indicted Tuesday, the Detroit U.S. attorney's office said.

The men tried to trick Sierra Leone officials into believing that DiPofi's company was owed $23 million for providing military equipment, security and training during the west African nation's civil war in 1995-97, the indictment said.

DiPofi owned the now-defunct Executive Outcome Inc., based in Mount Clemens. His company had the same name as a South African company that did the work for Sierra Leone.

The indictment said Executive Outcomes of South Africa was to receive $30 million for its work in Sierra Leone.

A British company, Audax Trading Ltd., contacted the Mount Clemens company, mistakenly believing it to be the company that had done the work in Sierra Leone, and offered to help collect the payment, the indictment said.

DiPofi and Belan gave Audax and Sierra Leone's government fraudulent documents to justify their claim for payment, the indictment said.

That this Michigan company would just happen to have the EO name and that its owner would just happen to be a director of the PMF Northbridge seems to me far too mich of a coincidence. What I am curious about is whether Di Pofi's company had already been trying to give the impression of affiliation with Tony Buckingham's Executive Outcomes, or whether DiPofi's company was in fact an offshoot. Given the byzantine financial network surrounding such companies, this is a much more complex question than it appears. I wonder what DiPofi's legal defense will have to say about the matter.
* Check out Grunberg's letters of complaint linked to from this page and you'll see what I mean.