Fighting organized crime, from New York to Sweden

March 9, 2020

 

Vesper’s spring event hosted Detective First Grade NYPD Robert “Bobby” Callus, a former Police Officer with extensive experience from successfully fighting organized crime in New York. His opening words captured the audience:

- You only need to study the history of the decline of New York city from the 1970’s through the mid-1990’s to understand that the path Sweden is on is remarkably similar.

Callus went on, stressing the importance of making early investments in the judicial system and the law enforcement resources, before violent crime gets further out of control. He pointed at the number of shootings and explosions in Sweden today as extreme and unacceptable:

- Even by New York-standards those numbers are crazy, you have to deal with these criminal organizations now. When they become too powerful, they will inevitably cause low-level corruption in your society.


Mr. Robert "Bobby" Callus, Detective First Grade NYPD (ret.)

Bribes, poverty and violent crime
To understand the complex problem of organized crime, Callus gave examples from his experience in New York. For instance, by controlling the labor unions, organized crime can control which construction companies will receive their material on time. That way they can give an advantage to those who pay their bribes. Those who resisted must then add the time and cost to their production. In the construction industry this can drive up the cost of a building by hundreds of millions of dollars for an entire project. When the cost of doing business is fraudulently inflated, market value for workers’ salaries remain stagnant or may even decline:

- You get poverty and poverty drives violent crime. Poverty increases the need for social services. Increased social services reduces funding and resources for law enforcement, Callus concluded.

The similarity of New Yorkers and Swedes
Callus said that the political climate among of many New Yorkers in the 1980’s was not unlike that of current Sweden. At that time many NYC people rejected the notion of an aggressive policing strategy, and policy makers were not willing to invest in resources. But by the mid 90’s the people of NY had been beaten into submission and were begging for aggressive police action.

Strategy, policies and laws
In order to deter and disrupt a violent criminal organization all the elements of a strategy must be sustained, and Callus meant that effective laws must be put in place. He pointed at both laws and strategies:

  • The Federal Law- Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act. (RICO) and the state version The Organized Crime Control act. (OCCA), hold the leadership of any criminal enterprise severely accountable for the acts of its subordinates.
  • The Asset Forfeiture laws that allow for the seizure of any assets acquired illegitimately, upon arrest.
  • Establish an organized crime unit, fully capable with full resources for running sophisticated intelligence collection and human deep cover operations.
  • Resist picking low hanging fruit – wait for the bigger picture to evolve.
  • Recruit a cadre of professional informants.
  • Recruit language specialists.
  • Hold the peripheral people accountable; accountants and lawyers who enabled the concealment of finances or otherwise engaged in and supporting the schemes.
  • Build more prisons, you will need them to keep the criminals off the streets.

New York methods
So, how did New York manage to successfully curb organized crime in the city? Here is how Callus described some of their most effective methods:

  • When a violent incident occurs in a gang-controlled area or by a known gang member, flood that zone. Assign a task force of uniformed police officers to secure to the turf where the offending gang is known to operate. The goal is to shut down the illegal business being conducted by that gang.
  • Enact a “Zero tolerance policy” in the flooded zone. Stop and interview anyone who does not live on that street. Word will quickly spread that business is closed and this will also force the gang members off the street. These actions will generate intel and deter as well as reduce the gangs cash flow. It sends the message to the gang leaders that violence will no longer be tolerated and it will cost them where it hurts; in their ability to make money.
  • Flooding the zone may also cause hasty reactions by the gang under pressure. This is also commonly known as “tickling the wire”. To capitalize on any effort to temporarily relocate the criminal operation, establish a covert surveillance in the affected area just prior to flooding the zone. The gangs’ movements in haste and under stress gives an opportunity to identify unknown gang members, vehicles and locations of weapons or narcotics.

Catch and release won’t work
Callus also stressed that without a sufficient judicial infrastructure the strategy will fail.  Catch and release will not work, violent actors must be remanded to jail during the adjudication process. This practice eliminates gang member from further violence and usually provides incentive for gang members to cooperate against the leadership.

Finally, he pointed to the fact that Swedes in some areas may have lost their peaceful daily life and that when gunfire and explosions becomes routine, life in Sweden has changed for the foreseeable future:

- This change has been forced on you; tolerance should be rejected. Don’t become a “slow boiled lobster” that gets accustomed to the changes, hold elected officials accountable and demand action, said Callus.


Johan Barvaeus, Senior Consultant at Vesper Group alongside Robert Callus


"Change is constant, so security needs to support change"

February 24, 2020

Fredrik Ahlén, Senior Global Security Advisor – you have been working at Vesper Group for about a month now. You have over 15 years’ experience in the private security industry where you have served the operational level as executive bodyguard and high-risk close protection officer, instructor and security coordinator for several states and private actors. You have also led and developed projects in complex environments and you hold an advanced academic degree.

Your experience from complex high-risk environments is long, especially East Africa. Tell us, what do you consider most important for customers to think about when doing business in that region?

There are a few factors that are particularly important to consider which have been historically observed in fragile, conflict or post-conflict environments. These underlying factors, central obstacles to the democratization process, are e.g. poverty, inequality and corruption on one side and insurgencies on the other.

These ingredients are repeatedly recognized when evaluating the cocktail of the conflict. Often the focus is predominantly on terrorist related activities. Subsequently, it is important to establish that the residual risk correlates with the client´s established risk appetite by implementing mitigating measures. But it is also crucial for mission success as a security partner to identify intangible obstacles impacting on the mission’s success.

Corruption is not tangible in the same way as terrorism. Thus, it is one of the main obstacles for projects to be successful. As an example, in the world’s most fragile states, it is easy to pay taxes or other fees without ensuring that the receiver is a legitimate state agent. Failure to establish the legitimacy of the receiver could lead to allegations of financing of terrorism as in the Warlord, Inc case. As globalisation reaches the most rural areas of the world, new risks emerge. Vesper Group is a certified ICoCA member and therefore we can assure that our clients comply with international, national and customary law.

To conclude; there is usually a gap in the risk mitigating measures focusing narrowly on tangible risks e.g. terrorism. Although that is at the core of our business, it is essential for our clients, working in these environments, to identify, consider and understand how corruption affects the security situation and their projects. Vesper Group can enable missions for states, donors and multinational corporations during state-building processes.

You are a member of the board of directors of the International Code of Conduct Association, ICoCA. What is the role of ICoCA?

The purpose of the Association is to promote, govern and oversee implementation of the International Code of Conduct and to promote the responsible provision of private security services respect for human rights and national and international law in accordance with the Code.The board consists of representation from governments, civil society and the private security industry, forming part of the General Assembly. As a member of the board of directors I was elected to represent the security industry pillar ´at large´.

The Code includes a wide range of standards and principles for the responsible provision of private security services which can be broadly summarised in two categories. First: principles regarding the conduct of member company personnel based on international human rights and humanitarian law standards including rules on the use of force, sexual violence, human trafficking and child labour. Second: principles regarding the management and governance of member companies including the selection, vetting and proper training of personnel.

What should our customers expect from you?

Our mission is to protect people, property and information anywhere we operate. We are business enablers – worldwide. I believe, that in order to ensure a competitive advantage, we need to provide strategies through an innovative tailored security risk management approach mixed with a broad spectrum of expertise in business and project management and be abreast of the latest academic research.

Private security services are evolving from the typical one size fits all approach consisting of guns, guards and gates to a full range of security risk management services. Change is constant, so security needs to support change. Therefore, our clients can expect Vesper Group to be the spearhead in the global security industry establishing new best practices.

I will contribute to the further development of Vesper Group´s capacity with a mix of expertise. It ranges from practical industry perspective, strategic planning and development of projects in complex environments to advanced research in the field of international security, international law and other relevant academic fields.

What motivates you most at work?

To work with the most skilled professionals in the industry and the continuous strive for improvement. I am a business enabler constantly increasing our serviceable market. I compose the strongest teams available on the global market to provide our customers with state-of-the-art security solutions that always exceed our customers’ expectations. A success factor is to know our market and tailor our solutions to our customers framework or management system.


At work in the Old Town of Mogadishu, Somalia.


Erik Lewin elected to the Executive Committee of SCEG

January 7, 2020

Erik Lewin, CEO of Vesper Group, has been elected to the Executive Committee of Security in Complex Environments Group, SCEG.

SCEG is a British Special Interest Group for security companies who are committed to the development and implementation of international standards for the private security sector. Vesper Group became the second non-British security company to be approved as member in 2018, thus earning an invitation to join membership alongside some of the worlds’ top security companies.

SCEG companies are well regulated and compliant, have embraced international security standards and protecting human rights is at the core of their business models. SCEG provides a voice and a catalyst for change for those companies concerned about the need to raise global standards for the private security sector. The group is governed by an Executive Committee representing the broad spectrum of interests within the membership. Read more about SCEG: https://www.sceguk.org.uk/

Erik Lewin’s term as a member of the Executive Committee began on 1 January 2020 with the option to serve for two years.


Erik Lewin, CEO of Vesper Group


Customer and supplier share responsibility

December 4, 2019

Vesper Group participated in ICoCA's annual meeting in Geneva late November. The meeting dealt with usual topics such as the annual report, budget and membership issues, but the agenda also included various panel discussions and workshops.

The workshop, "Towards Shared Responsibility: The Role of Clients", focused on customer responsibility. Large-scale companies and organisations participated in the workshop to discuss the importance of their due diligence processes when purchasing security services given that the biggest risks are often linked to subcontractors. They argued that security companies with ICoCA certifications have a proven commitment to responsibility, regardless of how complex the environments in which they operate are. As one of the speakers put it:

- An ICoCA certification guarantees us as customers that the company not only does what is permitted by law, but that it also adheres to what is ethically right.

But the discussion also focused the many challenges that remain - above all the need to inform customers about the importance of conducting due diligence of sub-contractors and about ICoCA’s role in this process.

Private security companies have a responsibility to inform the market about the importance of ensuring that they exclusively use responsible companies. Choosing suppliers based on lowest price only is associated with significant risks which may not only affect the companies themselves but also the people living in complex environments where security services are often performed.


The Assembly in Geneva. Photo: ICoCA


Business or travels to Baghdad - what applies?

November 12, 2019

“The security situation in Baghdad city, as at November 2019, is assessed as highly volatile in light of continuing demonstrations and widespread civil unrest in the city. Due to current tensions, careful planning and coordination is advised when transiting in the city. However, this latest protest wave represents a deviation from security trends seen in Baghdad in recent years which have been characterised by an overall decline in large-scale violence.”

That is part of the summary in one of the situation reports that we provide to a number of clients with ongoing business in Baghad or with staff travelling to the city. The situation report covers the following subjects:

  • Threat Matrix
  • Situation overview
  • 2019 demonstrations
  • Context
  • Key Actors
  • Outlook
  • Locations
  • Tactics and procedures
  • Current threats
  • Assessment and recommendations

We enhance the overall safety for our clients’ business and their staff travelling to Bagdad. Want to learn more? Contact us at info@vespergroup.se


Renewed certifications for Vesper

November 1, 2019

Being a provider of security services in high-risk environments is a big responsibility. Part of our quality assurance work is commiting to and working in accordance with the principles of International Human Rights and Humanitarian law. During the summer Vesper Group was reviewed by MSS Global and we are proud to have been re-certified.

The comprehensive review showed that Vespers Group's management system is compliant with the demands of ISO 9001, ISO 18788 and PSC.1. These certificates are a part of our commitment to live and work in accordance with the best practice of the security industry and to contribute to development and promotion of the standards. It also shows that we are serious actors who acts responsibly in the contexts where we operate as wells as towards our clients.

We have high standards when it comes to compliance, ethics and performance. Vesper Group is a member of International Code of Conduct Association, ICoCA, who oversees the private security services. We are also members of Security in Complex Environments Group, SCEG, a British special interest group that gathers companies that are well regulated, compliant and have embraced international security standards with human rights issues at the core of their business models.


Vesper Group's certificates.


15 years within the CIA, following the money

October 24, 2019

The topic of Vesper Group's autumn mingle was financial fraud and money laundering. Keynote speaker was Jeremy Mears, with 15 years of AML experience from the CIA, who provided a snapshot of the enormous global problems affecting both banks and businesses.

Mears talked about his work using the so-called "follow the money"-method, which involved everything from tracking down war criminals to intelligence gathering and analysis before imposing sanctions.

Efforts to combat crime are currently ongoing around the world, however loopholes continue to exist, and the creativity, incentives and capability of criminals remains significant. Unfortunately, the ability to fight back or prevent crime is not yet strong enough within the judiciary or amongst lawmakers, Mears said.

Mears, who is currently Vice President of the company Sovereign, also talked about new methods to combat money laundering. He highlighted the problem of increasing compliance costs for banks and financial institutions, as regulations and legislation place higher demands on preventing money laundering linked to international crime, terrorism and "rogue states".

Mears believed that one of the solutions of the future is artificial intelligence, AI, where it is possible to process large amounts of data and discover patterns that can lead to the detection of criminal transactions, while reducing the banks’ costs.

He pointed out that one can get to know the customer using AI by, for example, combining thorough background checks with AI interpretation of everything from emojis, syntax, dialogue style, slang and sarcasm. All in order to prevent the wrong customer from entering the system.

Since 2008 regulators have fined financial firms more than $28 billion for AML and sanctions violations, according to Mears.


Mr. Jeremy Mears, Vice President at Sovereign Intelligence


Vesper Group committed to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse

June 17, 2019

Vesper Group was one of the first security companies to become certified by the International Code of Conduct Assocation, ICoCA. The association governs and oversees the implementation of the Code of Conduct and promotes the responsible provision of private security services.

Vesper Group was present when ICoCA recently held a roundtable discussion in Geneva to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the recently published guidelines (PSEA) for private security companies on preventing and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse.

The roundtable discussions evolved around the challenges that private security companies face when preventing sexual exploitation in the context of operations. Amongst the topics were experiences and good practices within the security industry, but also lessons learned within the humanitarian sector from dealing with these problems.

Both private security companies and civil society organizations participated at the roundtable, all committed to addressing and preventing exploitation and abuse. Subject area experts were also present, and the day was a success with many fruitful talks and an open discussion.

One of the conclusions was that more cooperation is needed and will take place between private security companies and civil society organizations, in order to address the challenges and minimize sexual exploitation and abuse in relation to global security operations. Vesper Group is a committed member of ICoCA and the PSEA and will continue to support ICoCA on this important matter.

Facts about ICoCA
ICoCA’s members consists of seven governments, 87 private security companies, 32 civil society organisations and 34 observers. Read more about ICoCA: https://www.icoca.ch/en/association


Vesper Groups’ cyber security services acquired by Nixu

March 18, 2019

Vespers’ prospering cyber threat intelligence, CTI, was born as a start-up within Vesper Group and is in a strong growth phase. CTI is in need of a new setup in an environment with the ability to invest all focus solely within this field. Therefore, Vesper Group has sold the CTI services to the European cyber security company Nixu.

- Vespers’ cyber threat intelligence services is a success story, in only four years of organic growth it has become highly valued and sought for. The owner's group feels that the timing is right to let CTI take the next big leap, by giving them an environment focused in this field, says Erik Lewin, CEO of Vesper Group.

The CTI service will transfer to Nixu during the month of April along with staff, customers and partners. Nixu will strengthen their customer proposal with CTI and Vesper Group will still be able to offer the same services through a tight cooperation with Nixu.


Quality in the security industry

Nov 30, 2018

Erik Lewin, CEO of Vesper Group, spoke at the International Security Expo in London 28 November. It was the Security in Complex Environments Group (SCEG) who invited a number of speakers who all confirmed the high level of quality, the need for certifications and monitoring of the global security industry.

Erik Lewin talked about how the global security industry has developed since 2004 and how most dishonest actors have disappeared as the demands for quality, professionalism, licenses and certifications have been established. Erik Lewin described the hard work that has led to Vespers membership in in organisations such as SCEG, ICoCA and the certifications according to ISO 18788, ISO 9001 and PSC-1. He also warned for the risk of price dumping, which could lead to impaired quality and the return of dishonest actors.

Read more about Vesper Groups' close protection assignments.

Some of the speakers at the SCEG symposium.
                            
Erik Lewin, CEO Vesper Group                                              Paul Gibson, Director SCEG                        Glynne Evans, Senior Advisor Olive Group