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Ex-Blackwater President Charged Over Firearms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Five former employees of the U.S. defense contractor Blackwater Worldwide have been indicted, including its former president Gary Jackson, on several weapons charges and making false statements.

They have been accused of skirting federal firearms laws and misrepresenting the weapons they were buying and the identities of the purchasers.

This included a case in which weapons were given to Jordanian officials in hopes of winning their business, while it was stated they were bought by employees.

Also charged in the 15-count indictment were the company's former general counsel Andrew Howell, former executive vice president William Mathews, former vice president of logistics and procurement Ana Bundy, and former armorer Ronald Slezak.

Blackwater, which has changed its name to Xe Services, has faced intense scrutiny for its security work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of its guards were accused of wrongly killing Iraqi civilians in 2007 while protecting U.S. diplomats there.

In the Jordanian case, King Abdullah visited Blackwater's training facility in North Carolina as the company tried to win a lucrative contract for building and running a training center, according to prosecutors and the indictment.

He and his entourage were presented with five firearms as gifts "to gain favor," the indictment said.

When the company could not account for the weapons, Jackson allegedly directed employees to fill out the necessary forms to show that Blackwater employees had bought the guns for their own use.

The Justice Department said that there was no wrongdoing by the Jordanian government or its officials and said the country provided assistance in the investigation.

The group also was accused of amassing some 227 short barrels for M4 rifles for their work in Afghanistan and Iraq, but U.S. law limits such weapons. Prosecutors said the group allegedly arranged straw purchases to evade detection.

A spokesman for Xe Services said it was aware of the charges and that the company has fully cooperated with the Justice Department's investigation.

"Given the pending criminal charges, the company will not comment further," said Mark Corallo, the spokesman for the company.