After a spate of high-profile robberies seemingly targeting people in transit from private airports, P1 asks security expert Martin Chard from Animus Associates how passengers can protect themselves.
Q. Do you think these attacks are deliberately targeting people using private aviation, and are there other instances around the world?
A. Thefts and robberies from High Net Worth persons has become an increasing occurrence in 2015 & 2016. From the theft of US$2m from the cars belonging to a Saudi national, US$11m of Kim Kardashian’s jewellery to the most recent hijack and theft of US$5m worth of jewellery, valuables and cash from a Bentley travelling from Le Bourget to central Paris, these heists are becoming ever more daring and bold. The most recent occurrence, involving two Qatari ladies in their 60s is perhaps the most daring. Two masked men forced the rented vehicle to the side, sprayed tear gas onto the passengers, and then stole the contents. This is surprisingly on a route which is allegedly notorious for similar thefts from the wealthy. What is particularly alarming is that this is happens regularly yet no one advising these families had perhaps performed the correct intelligence and security preparation required for such a trip. Had a security and intelligence assessment be conducted, these facts would have come to light and correct risk mitigation and defensive measures put in place.
Q. If this is the work of organised gangs, or are the attacks random?
A. These attacks a far from random. They require detailed planning and collaboration from a number of people – a security driver worth his salt would have been able to drive out of the situation in his Bentley, had a back-up team with him and had control measures in place to call for help in the event of such activities. The criminal gangs are playing for high stakes and therefore their own intelligence preparation and planning goes into infinite detail to ensure success. Partly they rely on the belief that ‘it won’t happen to me – no one knows who I am!’ approach adopted by many of the very wealthy – but using a business aviation hub is a key indicator that these customers have wealth and valuables. Regrettably they do not often value the input and advice from security and intelligence professionals until is it too late… Criminal gangs will know when, where and which vehicles to attempt to hijack going only for soft targets – lone vehicles with families or individuals.
Q. How can people flying private protect themselves against these kinds of attacks?
A. Those families and UHNW individuals (or indeed corporations) who recognise that there may be a risk of theft, hijack, kidnap etc during travel are advised to consult with intelligence and security professionals. Animus Associates together with Bespoke Private Security offer these services discreetly and professionally. However, many do not believe they are at risk until it is too late – family offices and their advisers also do not believe that the costs associated with intelligence and security planning is necessary because when they have done so in the past – nothing happens… the fact that nothing happens is often precisely because of the detailed and meticulous intelligence and security planning that has occurred.
Q. Do people flying on private jets have enough security? Is the journey from airport to destination address, such as hotel, the weakest link in their security arrangements?
A. It largely depends on the risk appetite of the individual, equally the adage of “quality not quantity” is especially true in this case. Some UHNW Families do not believe they need private security, some are required to have it, others demand it – but often the wrong type! Engaging large, well-built musclemen is not always the right approach – certain types of protection officers just draw attention to the principals thus increasing risk. If you can afford a private jet you should have enough sense to at least consider personal security and safety when travelling – only corporations and UHNW families can afford these luxuries… Security personnel will not only take care of the travel arrangements, screening of the chauffeur companies, route reconnaissance, but also the hotel procedures, counter surveillance tasks and all other task required to enable and facilitate a safe and secure trip.
Q. What are the security touch points involved in the average private jet flight – is security as tight as commercial aviation?
A. Business and private aviation follow the same strict rules as for commercial aviation. It is likely that in certain business airports, security may even be tighter due to the smaller scales of operation.
Q. People are travelling with millions of dollars worth of goods and cash – are there regulations in place to stop this? Who tends to travel with insecure assets?
A. Customs regulations are rigorously enforced at business and private aviation hubs. UHNW families are unlikely to wish to attract the attention of international customs authorities and the negative impact that will have on them and their business operations.
Q. What measures can private aviation users travelling with valuables take to seem less conspicuous?
A. There are some simple measures that people can take to stay secure: Step 1: Engage the services of an intelligence and security consultant. Step 2: Let them conduct the required due diligence, intelligence gathering, risk, threat and security planning. Step 3: Listen to their advice and help them create a plan to enable Principal’s trip. Step 4: Enjoy your trip, secure in the knowledge that a team of professionals is looking out.