By Josh Boak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 20, 2010; 10:42 PM
The Afghan government this weekend jailed a 75-year-old U.S. citizen whose firm, Red Sea Engineers and Constructors, has received about $500 million in contracts over the past three years.
Roy Carver, Red Sea's chief executive, was charged with owing money to Afghan vendors that provided supplies to his construction firm, said his daughter and son-in-law, Roberta Carver-Carson and Denis Carson.
They said the source of the problem is late payments by another U.S. firm, Falls Church-based DynCorp International, that had subcontracted work to Red Sea. DynCorp spokeswoman Ashley Burke said that Red Sea was not paying its own Afghan workers, who then walked off the job site. To keep construction going, she said, DynCorp began paying the Afghan employees directly.
Afghan officials could not immediately be reached for information on the case. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Monday confirmed the arrest.
After Carver had a meeting at the Afghan attorney general's office, police escorted him to jail at the Kabul Governor's House Compound.
Red Sea employs 1,200 Afghans and constructs the cylindrical steel-panel buildings that are commonly found at military camps in Afghanistan, according to the company's Web site.
Carver's arrest comes as the United States has been pressuring the Afghan government to reduce corruption. This month, the United States banned the Afghan company Watan Group from receiving future contracts. Cousins of Afghan President Hamid Karzai run the Watan Group's security guard subsidiary.
"My biggest fear is that Kabul wants to show the world that they're now utilizing their legal system and everything is above the board," Carver-Carson said. "I'm afraid that they might be using my father as an example."
His family said they are receiving updates from a Red Sea employee who is taking food, medicine and blankets to his boss.
Carver shares a cell with several inmates. His daughter has been in contact with an official from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul who visited her father.
She said the official told her that the United States will not get involved in the matter but that it will ensure that Carver is not mistreated.
Carver founded Red Sea in 2002 and has been in the government contracting industry for 40 years. He previously established two other contractor firms, Seair Transport Services and Tero Tek International.
An Oct. 27 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction identified Red Sea as the second-largest recipient in the country of payments by the U.S. Joint Contracting Command.
The company received a contract worth $478 million between 2007 and 2009, according to the report.
Red Sea also built an upscale housing complex for international workers in Kabul that is home to the restaurant Red Hot Sizzlin'.
"This restaurant is the place to go if you are after a steak, American-style," according to an online review by the travel guide Lonely Planet. "It's all Tex-Mex here, with juicy T-bones, piles of fries and a cold one to wash it all down."
The company's registration to be a U.S. government contractor expired in January, according to a federal database. Its license to do business in Afghanistan expired in September.
But in an e-mail sent two weeks ago, Carver wrote that Red Sea is "still active in Afghanistan."
Staff writer Ernesto Londono in Kabul contributed to this report.