Erik Prince, the billionaire US military contractor, is allegedly charging $6,500 per ticket for flights out of Afghanistan on a chartered plane, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
Mr Prince was the founder of Blackwater, a military contractor that earned billions from the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, as the war in Afghanistan ends with an American defeat, Mr Prince appears to have found a way to profit from that too.
Tens of thousands of Afghans, Americans, and foreign nationals are currently evacuating the country as the authoritarian Taliban regime returns to power. President Biden has pledged to meet a 31 August deadline to remove almost all American troops, and despite pressure from other G7 leaders to allow more time for evacuations, the president shows no signs of budging.
“I’m determined to ensure that we complete our mission,” Mr Biden said on Tuesday.
In the past 24 hours, the US and other countries have flown 19,200 people out of the international airport in Kabul, bringing the total number of evacuees so far to 82,300.
But many more, including hundreds of American citizens and tens of thousands of Afghans who qualify for special visas, remain in the country.
Mr Prince has reportedly offered a privileged few of those people a way out – for a steep price. According to The Wall Street Journal, the financier has advertised his flights at $6,500 a head, plus additional costs if the passenger needs help escaping their home and getting safely to the airport.
Journalists and other observers have condemned the effort.
“After making millions of dollars off the Afghanistan war, Erik Prince is back at it, exploiting people’s desperation for cash,” tweeted New York Times editor Maria Abi-Habib.
“Erik Prince sees a crisis for his fellow Americans and allies, and the billionaire uses it to charge $6,500 per person for a plane seat out,” activist Amy Siskind wrote. “What a guy!”
The Independent has reached out to Mr Prince via his current company for comment, but has not yet received a response.