For the record I support this company when they decide to Invest on Power but here is the backgroud of their CEO OTTAWA The Canadian Forces have hired a private-security firm in Afghanistan that once employed a former member of a South African military unit that assassinated opponents of the apartheid regime. The British firm Hart Security provides protection to Canadas Strategic Advisory Team, a team of about 20 military officers and foreign-affairs officials who advise the Afghan government in Kabul. Based in London, Hart has been operating in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003, and now claims to be the biggest private-security firm in the south of the country. In spring 2004, a Hart employee was killed in a firefight in the city of Kut, about 185 kilometres southeast of Baghdad. The employee was identified as 55-year-old Gray Branfield. During the apartheid era of white minority rule, Mr. Branfield ran a special operations unit in Zimbabwe for the South African government. In 1988, a team of agents led by Mr. Branfield set off a truck bomb that killed one Zimbabwean and injured six members of the African National Congress. According to a report by South Africas Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the attack was planned by the covert Civil Co-operation Bureau, whose objective was to silence anti-apartheid activists throughout the world. The company says on its website that project personnel are selected on strict criteria for their quality and ability to meet the demands of each particular task. The company has also said it was not aware of Mr. Branfields background when he was hired. That would have been of great concern to us if he had been involved in illegal activity, Hart executive Simon Falkner told an interviewer after Mr. Branfields death. As far as Im concerned, he was a bona fide individual and a very fine man. He died protecting his guys, which, frankly, if he was in the army, would have won him a very high award. The company did not respond to an interview request this week. However, it is not unusual for private-security firms to hire former special-forces soldiers from the United States, Britain and South Africa with experience in covert operations. Maj. Vance White, a Canadian Forces spokesman, said Hart was only hired recently and was not employed by Canada when Mr. Branfield was with the firm. Hart was founded in 1999 by Lord Richard Westbury, a former member of Britains elite commando unit, the Special Air Service (SAS). It provides everything from VIP and embassy security to counter-terrorism training for governments and supply-chain security assistance for corporations. The company has counted the BBC and the World Food Program among its clients. In Iraq, Hart has protected power-supply lines and helped secure the 2005 national elections. The company says it adheres to numerous international standards, including the International Committee of the Red Crosss code of conduct, and insists its employees comply with all laws and regulations of the countries in which they operate. However, it also reserves the right to work for companies whose activities, although legal, may be deemed controversial or appear to fall outside the normal service areas, according to the companys website. Hart is one of three firms employed in Afghanistan by the Canadian Forces. Another British firm, Blue Hackle Security, provides security for the Joint Co-ordination Centre in the heart of Kandahar City, next to the governors palace. That is where Canadian Forces personnel and Afghan National Police co-ordinate emergency responses to crises in the area. Private-security contractors employed by the military are primarily used for perimeter security, not to conduct offensive operations, said Maj. White, the Canadian military spokesman. One Afghan company detailed to the Provincial Reconstruction Team site in Kandahar City secures the perimeter, protects convoys of Canadian personnel and provides a security cordon when an incident occurs, such as the explosion of a roadside bomb. The Canadian Forces do not identify Afghan contractors out of concern for their safety, said Maj. White. However, the military has in the past hired former Afghan warlords to provide such services. White said the use of private-security firms frees up Canadian troops to focus their efforts on those duties where they bring the greatest value to the mission. Canadas Foreign Affairs Department also employs private-security firms to secure diplomatic missions across the globe. A British firm called Saladin Security protects the Canadian embassy in Kabul. Last year, Foreign Affairs spent the bulk of its US$35.2-million protection services budget on private firms.