United Kingdom

FBI probes financial records and manifests of groups working to evacuate people from Afghanistan

The FBI has contacted veterans' groups which helped evacuate Americans and at-risk allies left behind after the chaotic Afghanistan evacuation last month to make sure they did not violate federal laws.

Agents have enquired about financial records and flight manifests, and visited at least one group leader at home, Politico reported.  

Members of 'Task Force Pineapple' and 'Task Force Dunkirk', as well as others, have been contacted by agents with a number of queries.

Agents are reportedly looking at whether any groups solicited money, offered bribes, or hired for-profit contractors for security and escort services.

The controversial private military contractor Erik Prince, who founded Blackwater, offered to safely evacuate people for $6,500 each, sparking allegations of profiteering. It is unclear if Prince has been contacted by the FBI.

Dozens of private groups made up of veterans and workers with experience in Afghanistan cropped up to aid those looking to flee the country.

Many were coordinated over messaging apps like WhatsApp, and some have continued their work since American military forces left the country for good on August 31.

Following the fall of Kabul in mid-August, multiple task forces made up of people with experience in Afghanistan cropped up to aid Afghans looking to flee

Task Force Pineapple was approached by agents when it recorded a 'substantial increase' in the amount of money in its nonprofit bank account, Politico reported.

Tim Parlatore, the group's legal counsel told the outlet that authorities had also visited the home of Task Force Pineapple founder Scott Mann.

Parlatore says the group was 'happy' to cooperate with the agency, and said they had been cleared of any wrongdoing.  

But he notes that other veterans' groups are 'not doing the right thing,' and that the FBI should look into every group currently involved in rescue work in the country.  

'We've heard of groups that are soliciting money based on false claims about their efforts. We've heard of groups that are taking actions which actually undermine the legitimate efforts of others,' Parlatore told Politico.

'Not everybody is necessarily acting with criminal intent, but when you have a situation like this, unfortunately bad actors do take advantage of tragedies.' 

Agents are reportedly looking at whether any groups solicited money, offered bribes, or hired for-profit contractors for security and escort services 

A person familiar with the investigations told Politico that the FBI is trying to ensure the groups do not offer bribes, or pay the Taliban to evacuate people from Afghanistan.

It is feared that any such payments would raise human trafficking concerns.

The Bureau's outreach has divided some groups. 

'In my mind, the FBI was trying to be helpful, not intimidating,' a person familiar with the outreach said.

But another told Politico: 'Any time you get visited by the FBI or contacted by an entity like that, it's concerning.'

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