In January, Eric Prince, founder of the American private military organisation Blackwater, represented US president Donald Trump in a secret meeting with a confidant of Vladimir Putin, according to several media reports.
Washington Post reported that the aim of the rendezvous was to establish an unofficial line of communication between Moscow and then President-elect Donald Trump.
The meeting, organised by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of the UAE, and the UAE's national security adviser, was held in the small island nation of Seychelles in the Indian ocean.
The meeting took place around 11 January, nine days before Trump was sworn in as the 45th president, the Washington Post reported.
Prince presented himself as an unofficial representative of Trump to several high-ranking UAE officials involved in setting up the meeting, although he played no formal role in the Trump campaign or transition team. Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, is the US Secretary of Education.
According to a report in Slate, the meeting was part of an unsuccessful attempt by Team Trump and the United Arab Emirates to convince Russia to part ways with its longtime ally Iran, a rival of the UAE. Although these sorts of meetings between unofficial envoys are common, the report fuels the story of Trump having connections to Russia story, which has dogged the Trump administration.
And having his interests represented by Prince, a figure of much controversy, does the new president no favours either: Blackwater is infamous for having perpetrated the massacre of 17 people in Baghdad in 2007, an incident which led to the conviction of four of its employees on murder and manslaughter charges in US court, according to Slate. The company is now known as Academi and has no ties to Erik Prince.
Yahoo Finance reported that Prince released a statement on Tuesday, blasting the intelligence community, although he did not deny having the meeting. "If the politically fabricated delusion of President-elect Trump and President Putin's coordination was true, why would anyone need to meet me anyway?" Prince said.
Washington Post reported that a spokesman for Prince said the Seychelles meeting "had nothing to do with president Trump." "Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?" the spokesman said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said: “We are not aware of any meetings, and Erik Prince had no role in the transition."
Updated Date: Apr 05, 2017 14:01 PM