Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A GAME OF RISK; Many a British Fortune Has Risen from the Rubble of Baghdad as Private Security Firms Targeted Iraq. Charlotte Eagar Rounds Up the Dashing Ex-SAS Soldiers, Politicians and Aristocrats Who Are Winning after the War

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A GAME OF RISK; Many a British Fortune Has Risen from the Rubble of Baghdad as Private Security Firms Targeted Iraq. Charlotte Eagar Rounds Up the Dashing Ex-SAS Soldiers, Politicians and Aristocrats Who Are Winning after the War

Article excerpt

Byline: CHARLOTTE EAGAR

Walking into the Chinese restaurant in the Green Zone, the fortified American citadel of central Baghdad, with Dave (a legendary ex-parachute regiment Regimental Sergeant Major running one of the leading private security companies in Iraq) is like being taken to a Hollywood restaurant with Robert De Niro. Every man at every table (and they are nearly all men) wants to say hello and be his friend. 'This is the biggest military reunion of all time,' said another ex-para who shared a house with Dave, with a fridge full of nothing but beer and women's gymnastics on the TV. ' Everyone who was in Dave's platoon in the Falklands who's not dead is here.' This was Baghdad 18 months ago, when the private security bonanza was at its height.

Corporate Watch recently produced a report on the British companies that had made fortunes out of Iraq and, unsurprisingly, five of the top ten were private security companies. The others were mainly involved in reconstruction or finance: the oil engineering giant AMEC with its [pounds sterling]500 million contracts; HSBC, the third largest financial institution in the world, which bought 70 per cent of the new Iraqi Dar es Salaam Investment Bank, which has assets of $91.1 million; and Cummins UK, the world's largest supplier of diesel engines, which has [pounds sterling]25.8 million worth of contracts in Iraq.

'Somebody had to rebuild Iraq. It doesn't matter whether you think the invasion was right or wrong,' said Andy Bearpark, an ex-diplomat, formerly one of the highest British officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, who has now set up the British Association of Private Security Companies.

'Iraq is a broken country: it's not just the war; they had 25 years of Saddam and a completely skewed economy,' said Gavin Mayhew, who runs Olive, the first private security company into Iraq.

'They need outside help, technical and physical.

Companies have to get people in there, they need to know the risks are acceptable. We help companies work in remote and insecure locations.' These firms are the private security companies' clients: after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, the Americans disbanded the Iraqi army and police forces but failed to replace them with coalition troops. In the security vacuum, the foreign companies, aid agencies and diplomats who arrived to help spend the $18.4 billion put aside to rebuild Iraq had to employ people to guard pipelines, offices, building sites, and be a heavily armed taxi service driving their employees from meeting to meeting.

The result was a gold rush for ex-soldiers; men who had been working as plumbers or long-distance lorry drivers were suddenly making [pounds sterling]600 a day tax free. A year after the war, Donald Rumsfeld, the American Secretary for Defence, said in a letter to the House Armed Services Committee that there were some 20,000 expats working for private security firms in Iraq: two and half times the number of British troops stationed there.

More significantly, it was also a bonanza for those who set up the companies. There were the private military company veterans, such as the ex-SAS and Guards officer Alastair Morrison, who had set up Defence Systems Limited back in the Eighties, and his former comrade-inarms, Richard Bethell, Lord Westbury, but the market also suddenly became flooded with new names such as Global, or Diligence. Even Control Risks and Kroll, two of the aristocrats of the corporate risk evaluation world, climbed aboard.

'We want to get the country going again,' said Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's former Ambassador to the UN and, for the first year after the end of the war, the highest British official in Iraq. 'We want to see business carrying on in Iraq. Those making money there at the moment are taking considerable risks and they deserve to be reasonably well paid.' Olive points out that it is hardly money for old rope. …

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