USA: Detroit Area Duo Indicted for Alleged Sierra Leone Scam

Publisher Name: 
Detroit Free Press

An Eastpointe police officer and a New Baltimore security contractor
have been indicted in an alleged attempt to defraud the government of
Sierra Leone and a private military company of $23 million.

The indictment, issued Tuesday, said Officer Christopher Belan and
Pasquale J. DiPofi, president of the now-defunct Executive Outcome Inc.
of Mt. Clemens, tried to trick the Sierra Leone officials into
believing DiPofi's firm was owed $23 million for providing military
equipment, security and training during the west African nation's civil
war in 1995-97.

The services were performed by Executive Outcomes Inc. of South Africa.

Belan, 40, a patrol officer, has worked for the police department for six
years. DiPofi, 33, works for a Defense Department contractor that
provides security for convoys in Iraq. He was arrested on a criminal
complaint in the case on Sept. 4 at Metro Airport after returning from
a 2 1/2 -month stint in Iraq. He was freed on $50,000 bond. The
complaint is expected to be dismissed because of the indictment.

DiPofi's lawyer wanted to review the indictment before commenting.
Belan couldn't be reached for comment.

Eastpointe Police Chief Michael Lauretti said he couldn't comment on
the case because he hadn't seen the indictment and can't discuss
personnel matters. But he said he would act on the indictment.

The indictment didn't say how DiPofi and Belan are associated.
Documents filed in a lawsuit in Macomb County Circuit Court show Belan
worked for the U.S. arm of Northbridge Services Group Ltd., a British
private military company, of which DiPofi is a director.

The indictment said Executive Outcomes of South Africa was to receive
$30 million for helping Sierra Leone. When the government didn't pay,
the company assigned the debt to Executive Outcomes Inc. of Panama,
which hired a man named Michael Grunberg to collect the debt. Through
Grunberg's efforts, Sierra Leone agreed in 2001 to settle for $23

Meanwhile, a British company, Audax Trading Limited, learned of the
settlement and tried to contact Executive Outcomes to offer its help in
collecting. The indictment said Audax mistakenly contacted Executive
Outcome in Mt. Clemens. In February 2002, Audax representatives
allegedly met in London with DiPofi and Belan, who hired Audax to
collect the debt.

DiPofi and Belan allegedly provided Audax and Sierra Leone's government
with fraudulent documents to justify their claim and impugn the
credibility of Grunberg and Executive Outcomes of Panama. When Grunberg
found out what was going on, he alerted Sierra Leone's government.

In the months that followed, the indictment said, Grunberg received
threats from people acting on behalf of DiPofi and Belan. He contacted
authorities. The indictment said Audax was an unwitting participant in
the scheme.

DiPofi and Belan are charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud and
making extortionate threats. The charges carry a penalty of up to 20
years in prison and a $250,000 fine. DiPofi also is accused of tax
evasion and failure to withhold federal taxes.

AMP Section Name:War & Disaster Profiteering