An airman walks toward a US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon parked on the tarmac at Iraq’s Balad Air Base near the capital Baghdad. (file photo)
A US military contractor tasked with protecting an airbase in Iraq has been involved in sex trafficking and other mischievous acts, investigators say.
Sallyport Global’s former and current staff have admitted to two former internal investigators that the Virginia-based firm, which received nearly $700 million from the Pentagon to secure Iraq’s Balad Air Base for F-16 fighter jets, has ignored alcohol smuggling, theft, security violations and sex trafficking, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
Robert Cole and Kristie King, the two investigators, who obtained the evidence, said they were fired by Sallyport after exposing the scheme.
According to Cole and King, Sallyport employees were involved in human trafficking for prostitution purposes and had let in four prostitutes into the air base disguised as housekeepers.
The investigators further charged that an alcohol smuggling case by Sallyport employees led them to a prostitution ring in the capital Baghdad. Their informants said the contractor’s employees were among the ring’s regular customers.
Sallyport’s staff also smuggled massive alcohol shipments into the base in violation of military rules. Some of the employees, who directed airplanes on the runways and handled cargo, often showed up drunk at their jobs.
The alcohol shipments were so heavy that a cargo plane “seesawed” on the tarmac once and tripped over nose-first while parked.
Steve Anderson, a flight logistics worker at the base, said managers forced him to sign off manifests he knew were falsified to hide alcohol and weapons.
Cole and King also claimed that some of the workers were manipulating paperwork to get paid without doing their jobs.
The investigators said the contractor’s mischief was rooted in its Virginia headquarters, with the bosses trying to hide the scheme from the government, which was footing the hefty $686 million contracting bill until earlier this year.
Sallyport rejected the accusations in a statement, saying it strictly followed the contracting rules in protecting the air base, which houses an F-16 squadron partaking in the US-led coalition’s military campaign against alleged Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria.
“Sallyport has a strong record of providing security and life support services in challenging war zones like Iraq and plays a major but unheralded role in the war against ISIS (Daesh),” Chief Operating Officer Matt Stuckart said, using another acronym for the terror group. “The company takes any suggestion of wrongdoing at Balad very seriously.”
However, Cole and King said they even saw militants freely drive flatbed trucks into the base and steal three enormous generators without being challenged by the US forces.
It was because of uncovering these security breaches that Sallyport decided to throw them out, the investigators argued.