Foreign Business Faces Many Hazards

By Carter, Tom | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 13, 2000 | Go to article overview

Foreign Business Faces Many Hazards


Carter, Tom, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


American companies beware. It's risky business out there, according to Control Risks Group, a London-based corporate security and investigation consultancy that issued its annual analysis last week of dangers around the world.

"Globalization is here. The Internet has no respect for boundaries. Crime has no respect for boundaries, and the legal system and law enforcement are behind, a long way behind, the criminals," said Nigel Churton, CRG managing director. "Business has to look after itself and its people."

Mr. Churton listed AIDS in Africa, unrest in Colombia, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle East and the conflict between Pakistan and India as serious impediments to business abroad.

"There is a real nervousness in commerce right now. These are uncertain times," he said.

Since the 1998 terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, American diplomatic and military installations have been beefed up, he said. That means U.S. businesses have become softer targets, and easier for terrorists to hit.

Cyber-crime, Mr. Churton said, is not just for thieves and spies anymore. According to the CRG, animal-rights groups, anarchists, anti-global-trade groups and others have discovered the Internet and denial-of-service attacks as a way to make a statement.

SURVEY DETAILS DANGERS

"We see animal-rights activists as a serious security concern in the U.K.," he said.

CRG's "RiskMap 2001," a guide for companies doing business abroad, details the political, social and economic environment for business in countries around the world. It is released each year in conjunction with the State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) meeting.

The OSAC gathering brings security chiefs from U.S. multinational corporations to Washington to brief them on security risks abroad. It is by invitation only, and while the meeting is well attended, several participants said it offers "an official, sanitized view of the world."

"The State Department talks on South Africa and Colombia painted a much brighter picture than the reality," said one participant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "The State Department has to be careful what they say," or it could upset bilateral relations.

CRG, on the other hand, is beholden to no one except its clients and can make more blunt, less diplomatic assessments.

Control Risks Group was founded 25 years ago in London and has since grown to 15 cities around the world. It is in the midst of a major expansion into the United States, where it will compete with such corporate security firms as Kroll Associates and PricewaterhouseCoopers' investigation groups.

CRISIS-RESPONSE TEAMS

CRG advises businesses on how to reduce the impact of political and social instability on their companies. CRG's crisis-response team has been involved in more than 1,000 kidnapping cases, mostly in Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines and Brazil. Thirty-five percent of its $50 million annual revenue comes from American companies, 30 percent from European clients and 12 percent from Japanese firms.

Eighty-five of the top 100 U.S. companies are clients.

It employs specialists in banking, aviation, diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement, journalism and accounting. It recently bought its own forensic laboratory. It has more than 40 stringers stationed in trouble spots around the world providing daily reports.

CRG's on-line Country Risk Forecast service costs about $10,000 a year. With it, a member company can access updated information on 128 countries and risk ratings for 70 nations. CRG's City Brief profiles of 295 cities give safety recommendations for neighborhoods and specific hotels for business travelers. The on-line reports are updated every working day.

CRG lists 12 countries this year - up from five in 1997 - as extreme political and security risks: Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Russia (Chechnya), Sierra Leone, Somalia, part of Sri Lanka and Sudan. …

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