4th July: US Embassy Paris with Renée Fleming, US Embassy Bern with Quincy Jones and a Big Wow for Our Foreign Service Stars

On July 7, 2011, Ambassador Charles H. Rivkin and his wife Susan Tolson welcomed 3000 guests to a Fourth of July Garden Party in Paris to celebrate the 235th anniversary of American Independence.  American soprano Renée Fleming  with the Dipnotes Choir sang during the festivities. The embassy also had some Glee stars. More photos hereBelow is the best video I could find.

At US Embassy Switzerland, Quincy Jones was the top celebrity guest of Ambassador and Mrs. Donald S. Beyer Jr. in Bern.  Also in attendance, Elvis Presley and the Blues Brothers!!

At the US Consulate General in Karachi, Information Officer, Andie DeArment sings the national anthem during the 4th of July reception in Pakistan.

Information Officer Andie sings the American National Anthem,
“The Star Spangled Banner.”
Photo from US CG Karachi/Facebook

And at the US Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, former lawyer, opera singer and now Foreign Service Officer Levi Smylie sings the national anthem at the embassy’s 4th of July event.  Beautiful!

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Armor Group North America (AGNA) and Affiliates Pay $7.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations on US Embassy Kabul $189 Million Guard Contract

I have posted here previously about the lawsuit filed by James Gordon, the former ArmorGroup North America (AGNA) Director of Operations under a False Claims Act whistleblower retaliation case against his former employer relating to the U.S. Embassy Kabul guard contract (see Lawsuit Filed Against US Embassy Kabul Contractor AGNA (Friday, September 11, 2009).

Today this statement was released by the Justice Department’s press shop:

WASHINGTON – Armor Group North America Inc. (AGNA) and its affiliates have paid the United States $7.5 million to resolve allegations that AGNA submitted false claims for payment on a State Department contract to provide armed guard services at the U.S.   Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Justice Department announced today. The settlement resolves U.S. claims that in 2007 and 2008, AGNA guards violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) by visiting brothels in Kabul, and that AGNA’s management knew about the guards’ activities. The settlement also resolves allegations that AGNA misrepresented the prior work experience of 38 third country national guards it had hired to guard the Embassy, and that AGNA failed to comply with certain Foreign Ownership, Control and Influence mitigation requirements on the embassy contract, and on a separate contract to provide guard services at a Naval Support Facility in Bahrain. 

The settlement resolves a whistleblower suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.   The lawsuit was initially filed under seal by James Gordon against AGNA, ArmorGroup International plc, G4S plc and Wackenhut Services Inc. under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals, called “relators”, to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the proceeds of a settlement or judgment awarded against a defendant.   Mr. Gordon will receive $1.35 million of the settlement proceeds.   During 2007 and early 2008, Mr. Gordon was employed by AGNA, as its director of operations. 

The case remained under seal to permit the United States to investigate the allegations and determine whether it would join the lawsuit.   Under the False Claims Act, the United States may recover three times the amount of its losses, plus civil penalties.   On April 29, 2011, the United States joined the suit. 

“These contracts are put in place to provide essential support to personnel who are serving in our missions overseas,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will actively pursue its legal remedies where contractors falsely claim taxpayer dollars for services that fall short of material requirements in their government contracts.”

“Americans deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and consistent with our values,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. “Our office has targeted government contractors who fail to meet their obligations to the American people. With this settlement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has now recovered more than $140 million in False Claims Act cases so far this year.”

“The Department of State appreciates the work done by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Inspector General in bringing this case to resolution. The Department of State  takes any allegation of contractor misconduct seriously and works as part of the inter-agency community to ensure it is adjudicated properly,” said Ambassador Eric J. Boswell, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.

The Deputy Inspector General for the Department of State, Harold Geisel, said, “We’re pleased with the successful resolution of this case, and I commend the dedication of our OIG investigators.   Our efforts should reinforce to American taxpayers that oversight of their tax dollars is taken seriously.”

Assistant Attorney General West and U.S. Attorney Machen thanked the joint investigation team, which includes Special Agents with the Department of State Office of Inspector General, and representatives from the Department of State and the Department of the Navy, for their efforts in the investigation of this matter.

Senate documents indicate that on March 12, 2007, the State Department awarded a $189 million contract to provide security services at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, to ArmorGroup North America, Inc. (“AGNA”), a subsidiary of the British-owned ArmorGroup International. Under the contract, AGNA is required to provide “a highly-trained, professional security force” to “protect life and property, prevent unauthorized access, maintain order, and deter criminal activity in and around the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan.”

So —  $7.5 million to resolve allegations with Mr. Gordon receiving $1.35 million of the settlement proceeds.  For a contract worth $189 million dollars, that’s a pretty good deal.

In fall 2010, Danger Room notes that a task order issued by the State Department under the Worldwide Protective Services to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul went to EOD Technology, “a global firm which has in the past guarded the British and Canadian embassies in the Afghan capital:

“And that means ArmorGroup North America — last seen with its guards taking tequila shots out of each others’ butts and engaging in extracurricular sex trafficking — has lost a contract worth nearly $274 million over five years.”

In March this year, Knoxvillebiz.com reported that the State Department has fired EOD Technology, based in East Tennessee less than six months after the company won the $274 million job and three months after federal agents raided its headquarters.

The State Department said then that ArmorGroup will be extended for at least the next four months while it assesses options for replacing EOD Technology. Which means the State Department is struck with ArmorGroup North America until this month. Or longer if there is a search for a new contractor.

Related posts:
Kabul Embassy Security Force contract now combined with Baghdad Embassy contract and WPPS II into one base Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) contract (Thursday, October 28, 2010)

Lawsuit Filed Against US Emb Kabul Contractor AGNA (Friday, September 11, 2009)

POGO writes to Secretary Clinton about US Embassy Kabul Guards (Tuesday, September 1, 2009)

Security Contracts at US Embassy Kabul (Friday, June 12, 2009)

Related item:
New Information About the Guard Force Contract at the US Embassy in Kabul | Majority Staff Analysis | Prepared for Chairman Claire McCaskill

US Mission Pakistan: New Consul General Assumes Charge of ConGen Peshawar

Officially announced yesterday – the U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar has a new Consul General:

Peshawar, July 7, 2011 – Dr. Marie Richards, the new U.S. Consul General, was welcomed to Peshawar today at the 11th Corps’ Garrison Club in a ceremony presided over by U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter.  Dr. Richards brings with her two decades of diplomatic experience, including previous experience in Pakistan and the region.

Ambassador Munter welcomes the new U.S. Consul General Marie Richards to Peshawar. Among the guests were the Provincial Minister for Environment Wajid Ali Khan and Abdul Hakeem Shinwari, Former Vice President of the Tribal Chambers of Commerce & Industry
Photo from US ConGen Peshawar

In his remarks, Ambassador Munter welcomed Dr. Richards as a “great friend of Pakistan.”  He underscored the strong working relationship with officials of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the FATA Secretariat and noted that “together we have been able to implement projects that improve the lives of the people of this area.”

Under Dr. Richards’ leadership, the U.S. Consulate General looks forward to strengthening cooperation with Pakistan in KP/FATA.  “I am thrilled to be here in Peshawar.  Consulate Peshawar is proud to be a partner of the KP government and the FATA Secretariat.  I look forward to continuing this close collaboration during my tenure,” said Dr. Richards.

Prior to arriving in Peshawar, Dr. Richards served as the Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Coordinator at U.S. Embassy Islamabad and as Director for Afghanistan on the staff of the National Security Council in the Executive Office of the President.  She was the Deputy Political-Military Counselor in Kabul, Afghanistan, from 2005-2007.  In  Washington, she served as the Asia Section Chief in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfers Policy.  She has also served in Guangzhou, China, New Delhi, India, and Karachi, Pakistan.  Dr. Richards is fluent in Urdu and proficient in Pashto.

Active links added above.  Dr. Richards succeeds Elizabeth Rood who departed Peshawar in December 2010 a few months after arrival at post (see US Mission Pakistan: reports of Consul General’s departure due to Taliban threats wrong | Sunday, December 12, 2010). Ms. Rood who is back in the United States has reportedly joined the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN).