James Glancy, CEO of security consultancy AnotherDay, whose clients include celebrities and Middle Eastern royalty, analyzes that night in Paris:
Kim Kardashian’s robbery in Paris raises serious questions about the unregulated international private security industry, which is said to be worth $6billion in London alone.
The French police are still investigating the heist, but it is clear that this was an intelligence-led operation by a serious organized crime network, one of many that operate across Europe with increasing sophistication and who target wealthy foreigners.
It’s difficult to comment too much on the Kardashian case because I haven’t spoken to those involved in the incident. But from a security perspective if you are a trusted guardian, you have to tell your famous client what they don’t want to hear: Celebrities don’t need celebrity bodyguards.
There are a host of unanswered questions. Why was Kim Kardashian reportedly left alone in the hotel room? Why did she not have counterfeit rings made in advance or appear not to have had detailed conversations about what to do if anyone tried to take her high-value assets in the event of a situation like that which materialized?
Sadly, despite expensive security details, many of these celebrity ‘targets’ are unprepared for the threats they face when they travel. In 2016 a group of up to eight armed robbers hijacked a member of the Saudi royal family on the Champs-Elysées, after their motorcade of a dozen vehicles had left the luxurious George V hotel. Both robberies are not the work of ordinary thieves, but that of organized networks of professionals with special forces-style targeting and coordination.
How do these gangs operate and how did they target Kim Kardashian?
The rise of social media has provided organized crime networks (OCNs) with a previously unavailable tool for harvesting accurate information about people’s lives, giving criminals a source of intelligence with which to accurately plan and execute a robbery or kidnapping.
In the Kardashian case, anyone can take a snapshot of her social media (or her bodyguard) and work out her travel arrangements, the value of the assets she’s carrying, her location, and the size of her entourage.
In this case, Kardashian helpfully telegraphed to the world that she was wearing an $4m dollar ring and had only one bodyguard. The OCN then had all the information they needed to launch the next phase of their operation: surveillance. After “housing” Kim at her Hotel de Pourtales, the criminals would have deployed a surveillance screen to watch the movements of her close protection team, identify CCTV blackspots, and potentially gain human intelligence from hotel staff by either paying them off or posing as fans or paparazzi.
This informed their plan of where and when they would conduct the raid. In the Kardashian case, her security detail gave them an open goal: Hotel de Pourtalès had no CCTV directly outside the entrance and the bodyguard left Kardashian alone at the hotel as he went out to a nightclub with her sisters. At around 02:30am the gang went into action, forcing the hotel night porter to reveal Kim’s room location before gaining access and making off with her jewelry, with the French police nowhere to be seen.
How Can Celebrities Prevent This From Happening Again?
Too often, security is regarded as a physical measure such as having a bodyguard, improved door locks, installing a CCTV, or traveling in an armored car. However, genuine security starts with building an intelligence picture about the real time threats that you could face before implementing counter-measures. For most of us, these security threats are relatively low and basic measures can improve our security and peace of mind.
Small steps such as turning off geo-tagging on social media, properly vetting people that have access to our personal lives and conducting research before visiting a foreign country are simple acts to improve your safety.
High net-worth individuals and celebrities whose lives expose them to regular world travel and interaction with large numbers of people need to approach their security with the detail of a government intelligence agency because they are targets for organized crime.
While having a muscular man-mountain next to them might be image appropriate and provide some peace of mind when clubbing in New York, they are no match for sophisticated international crime networks as was proven in the case of Aparecida Schunk, Bernie Ecclestone’s Mother in Law who was kidnapped in Brazil.
It turned out to be her helicopter pilot that provided the vital information to a local OCN. The only way to counter sophisticated crime networks is to get into the mindset of how they operate and then understand your own weaknesses. A full life security review by an intelligence based security company is essential. Staff must be vetted, physical and cyber security penetration conducted on properties and social media, and diligent close protection staff with international security experience hired and allowed to closely integrate intelligent security measures into their lifestyle.
A gulf has emerged in the security market between security companies established by former professionals from national government security services who understand the techniques needed to counter terrorist and serious organized crime networks, and the celebrity bodyguard and nightclub bouncer who offer immediate physical protection from doting fans and the occasional oddball, but little in the way of genuine security.
In many celebrities’ circumstances, it is common sense that would provide the greatest cloak of safety. But their lives can become so sheltered from everyday realities that common sense is the least common part of their lives–or in Kardashian’s case, in the lives of her bodyguards.
James Glancy is a formed British Royal Marines officer who served operationally around the globe. He was awarded Britain’ second highest gallantry medal, the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for leading operations in Afghanistan. James is now CEO of the international security consultancy AnotherDay and a Fellow at the Royal Geographical Society.
WHO SAID IT: DONALD TRUMP OR KIM KARDASHIAN?