US PMC Mozart in Ukraine becomes new Blackwater?
The Intercept reports that the founder of American Mozart private military company that consists of US veterans was subjected to a lawsuit by a co-founder of the group for financial fraud, sexual misconduct, burglary, and attempted bribery..."
Following the beginning of the war in Ukraine last February, former American marines established a private military company in the US, Mozart Group, which aims to train Ukrainian soldiers and participate in the ongoing fight against Russian forces.
It’s the twenty-first century. Corporates have armies. With as little as a few ID papers and almost no governmental regulation, you can take up state-of-the-art arms and be sent to a war that’s not your war, not your battle, and kill people whose names you can barely pronounce.
According to a report by The Intercept published on Monday, Mozart has deployed on the frontlines in Ukraine three teams of US veterans, each team accumulating nearly $100,000 of expenses monthly according to the group's leader ex-US Marine officer Andy Milburn.
However, the news site reported that the "noble" private military group that once claimed its fighting for the good of Ukraine is going into the for-profit business marking it as a mercenary group.
The US media outlet revealed that Andy Bain, a retired Marine and businessman operating in Kiev since the 2000s, filed a lawsuit against Mozart's leader Milburn in Wyoming state, where the group is registered, on charges of "financial fraud, sexual misconduct, burglary, attempted bribery, avoidance of U.S. weapons-transfer regulations, and even threatening a retired American general."
"The lawsuit asks the court to remove Milburn from the company and order him to pay damages of more than $50,000," added the report.
Read more: Ukraine sells weapons on black market due to limited ability to use
Bain, who says he owns the majority of shares in the military group, said that the head of Mozart Milburn managed the group “in a manner which has caused senior Ukrainian military officers to remark ‘can’t he go home and stop saving our country.’”
The Intercept quoted Milburn on the matter where he called the charges as “completely ridiculous,” adding that he had “placed this matter in the hands of legal experts.”
"The last few decades of global warfare have seen a profusion of private military companies operating with little scrutiny and engaging in widespread abuses. The most notorious after 9/11 was Blackwater, led by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, whose highly paid mercenaries — mostly retired U.S. service members — ran amok in Iraq and were implicated in war crimes there," noted the report.
Blackwater founder, a private mercenary who has massacred scores of Iraqis and is despised in Iraq more than the US soldiers themselves, established earlier another private military company called Reflex Responses – or R2 – after he sold Blackwater to investors as an escape from controversy.
Watch now: Black Water Founder Charges $6,500 to Flee Kabul
Milbrun strikes back: Bain tried to sell Mozart to Taliban
Responding to Bain's claims, Milburn went ballistic on Social Media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, accusing Bain of sexual misconduct and claiming that the former financial chief of the group is actually "heavily invested in Russia".
However, the most shocking accusation was that Bain tried to sell Mozart group to the Taliban.
Despite removing the posts, Milburn confirmed to The Intercept that he stood by what he said.
“I apologize for allowing this individual to be affiliated with the Mozart Group,” Milburn said on Twitter. “We are reevaluating our vetting process and will not allow this to happen again.”
Read more: US arms supplies to Kiev may end up in shadow markets of other countries
According to the report, Bain told the media outlet that he is "not going to comment on pending litigation, but recent posts and comments ensure defamation will be a much larger part of the proceedings than originally envisioned.”
"While it’s not unusual for a startup’s founding partners to have a falling out, it doesn’t tend to happen in an active war zone. And an intriguing subplot may involve an alleged effort to monetize Mozart’s high-profile work in Ukraine by turning it into a private military company with global aspirations," added the news site.
The military private group to become for-profit mercenary force
The Intercept said that, despite Mozart saying that it funds its operations through donations and claiming that its main cause is helping Ukraine, Bain's lawsuit accuses Milburn of going after paid military contracts in Armenia.
According to Mozart's website, it is a nongovernmental organization that has raised more than $3 million since February for military and "humanitarian aid".
A report published earlier by Intelligence Online revealed that the military group, “is now planning to become a conventional for-profit private military contractor (PMC) and expand into other war-torn areas.”
Mozart’s head of operations, veteran Marine officer Martin Wetterauet, confirmed the news, describing the hiring party as clients.
Mozart is “looking for new clients in other locations in the world,” he said.
The Intercept continued: "It seems certain to lend strength to Russia’s vivid criticisms of not just Mozart but also the overall U.S. effort to aid Ukraine, as Mozart has been one of America’s most visible citizen-led initiatives."
From Iraq to Ukraine
Milburn is an American born in the UK and has served in the Marine Corps as a colonel until his retirement in 2019 and took part in deployments in Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan for over three decades.
His most recent position was "deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Central, which plans special operations in the Middle East and Central Asia."
Following the start of the war in Ukraine, Milburn traveled to Kiev in February as a "freelance journalist" and submitted five articles to the military website Task & Purpose.
The report mentioned that Milburn's last publication on April 2 talked about an ex-Marine that is accused of rape in Ukraine.
However, the story was withdrawn from the site with an editor's note that the story is “undergoing editorial review for standards and practices and will be unavailable until the review is complete.”
Milburn confirmed to The Intercept that he stands by his story, despite it being placed under review by the military website.
"A day after that article was published, Milburn made what appears to be his first public mention of Mozart Group in an April 3 tweet"
On April 3, one day after the article was published, Milburn announced on his Twitter account of establishing a military group, in what seems to be referring to Mozart.
The group, he wrote on Twitter, “comprises former US SOF [special operations forces] personnel who deliver critically required capabilities to front-line units in Ukraine. The Group’s activities primarily consist of advising, training, and equipping Ukraine SOF and Resistance units.”
On April 4, the head of Mozart announced that he managed to crowdfund $20,000 on PayPal "within hours", knowing that the financial app allows a maximum limit of funding of that amount.
Milburn noted that half of the donations came from a Obsidian Solutions Group, another military contractor.
"With U.S. military personnel largely staying out of the country and U.S. diplomats departing in the early days of Russia’s invasion, Milburn attracted a considerable amount of media attention" The Intercept's report said
"He was one of the few Americans on the ground with combat experience who was working with the Ukrainian military and willing to talk with journalists," it added.
Funds go to Mozart's leader personal account
On his LinkedIn profile last week, Bain announced his lawsuit against Milburn, challenging his claims that that he is the founder of the private military group.
“At the outset of the war,” Bain said, “having lived in Kyiv nearly on 30 years and recognizing Ukraine’s dire need for basic military training, I contacted a retired U.S. Marine general friend asking if he knew anyone who could come develop training. He put me in contact with Andy Milburn, who came to Ukraine a few weeks later.”
“I registered, named, and arranged financing to launch the Mozart Group with a goal of providing training and support as needed for the war,” he added.
According to Bain, he is the owner of 51 percent of the shares of Mozart, while Milburn holds 49 percent.
The Intercept requested documentation from Bain backing his claims, where he provided the "Operating Agreement" for Mozart, which shows that indeed he owns 51 percent of the group's "units" while Milburn owns the rest.
The report continued: "Bain’s most serious allegations revolve around Milburn’s handling of donated money" where he accused Milburn of carrying out actions to “facilitate the diversion of funds away from Mozart Group LLC.”
Milburn was “insisting on personal compensation payments exceeding $35,000 per month from company accounts … and not accounting to the company for donated funds received which were received in personal or other accounts controlled by him,” the lawsuit said.
The media outlet noted that some of "Milburn’s personal fundraising were not hidden from donors".
Milburn made the solicitations for donations on his social media accounts, the report said, which included links to his Venmo and Paypal accounts.
"He said was necessary because Mozart’s donation platform was not working at the time, possibly due to Russian interference," said the news site.
"But until Bain’s suit, he had not been accused of misusing funds deposited into those or other accounts he controlled," it added.
Milburn hires an assistant from a dating site for $90,000
The suit also accused Milburn hired a female assistant whom he met on a dating site and was involved in a relationship with.
Milburn paid the assistant $90,000 annually, the suit said, adding that this salary is "at least four times more" than the market salary rate.
Mozart's leader also made “unwanted sexual advances and propositions to a female office manager,” the suit continued, according to The Intercept.
The 'Crazy American'
The head of the military group was accused of “orchestrating and participating” in the theft operation targeting the warehouse "leased by Bain’s Ukrainian Freedom Fund," the report said according to the lawsuit.
"Milburn was intoxicated and broke Kyiv’s curfew, leading to his temporary detention by Ukrainian authorities on more than one occasion," said the news site, adding that he sent “hostile and caustic messages” to a "retired commanding general of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe after the general declined to join Mozart"
"Milburn’s conduct exasperated senior Ukrainians," the media outlet said citing the lawsuit.
“Defendant Milburn is now commonly referred to by Ukrainian military leadership as the ‘Crazy American,’” the lawsuit said.