London firm 'among top 10 war profiteers'

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The Independent US

A private security firm headed by a former British Army colonel, Tim Spicer, has been named as one of the "top 10 war profiteers" of 2004.

The London-based Aegis Defence Services was awarded a $293m (£155m) contract by the Pentagon in June last year to co-ordinate security operations among thousands of private companies, making it the biggest private security operation in Iraq.

Only US companies such as Halliburton and Bechtel, which are involved in providing support services and reconstruction, and the defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin have received larger contracts.

"The Aegis contract stirred up considerable controversy," said Charlie Cray, the director of the Centre for Corporate Policy in Washington, which drew up the list. Critics have questioned the accountability of private military contractors and the screening process by which they are awarded the contracts.

Mr Spicer, whose previous company, Sandline International, was involved in shipping guns to Sierra Leone in 1998, contravening a UN embargo, formed Aegis in 2002.

No one from Aegis was available for comment yesterday.