SOUTH AFRICA: Police Investigate Companies for Illegally Hiring Contractors for Iraq

At least 10 South African companies and businessmen are being investigated on suspicion of recruiting former specialised police officers and soldiers to work in Iraq.
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At least 10 South African companies and businessmen are being investigated on suspicion of recruiting former specialised police officers and soldiers to work in Iraq.

The businessmen, who have offices in Pretoria, Johannesburg and the Western Cape, are believed to be responsible for recruiting more than 4 000 South Africans working for coalition forces in Iraq.

Information given to the Cape Argus reveals that at least 10 South African companies may be recruiting South Africans for work in Iraq.

This work includes close protection of Iraqi government officials and contract workers such as engineers.

12 other South Africans have been killed in the conflict

The investigations by the SAPS crimes against the state unit started less than a year ago, when former Pretoria police officer François Strydom was killed as a suicide bomber blew up the hotel he was staying in Baghdad.

Strydom and his friend and colleague, Deon Gouws, also a former police officer, were working for Erinys International.

Erinys International, which has offices in Johannesburg, hired them to protect a US Army
general.

Since Strydom's death, 12 other South Africans have been killed in the conflict.

The investigations by police are reported to centre on the recruitment of South Africans to help the US-led coalition forces in the rebuilding of Iraq.

The national police spokesperson, Director Sally de Beer, confirmed that several South African companies and businessmen were being investigated by detectives, but declined to name them.

De Beer said although no arrests had been made yet, investigators were also looking into a number of South Africans who were working in areas of conflict around the world, including Iraq.

"We are working closely with several government departments to ensure that the loopholes within the Foreign Military Assistance Act which are being exploited by these people are closed," De Beer said.

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