Inkerman Insights on Global Business Threat and Vulnerability

ALGERIAN ELECTIONS: THE UNCERTAINTY OF BOUTEFLIKA’S CERTAIN VICTORY

ALGERIAN ELECTIONS: THE UNCERTAINTY OF BOUTEFLIKA’S CERTAIN VICTORY

It may seem strange to those in countries where election campaigns increasingly look like warped beauty contests in which the person matters more than the policy, that a candidate could stand in a presidential election without once stepping foot onto a podium. Stranger still: that the candidate in question would be all but guaranteed victory in said election. This is precisely the situation, however, in Algeria; with less than a week to go before the election – 17 April 2014 – seventy-seven-year-old incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika, silent since the shakily croaked announcement of his candidacy, will almost undoubtedly win a fourth term. However, an increasingly vocal opposition movement has made it clear that it does not intend to allow the elections to pass uncontested; weekly protests have been held to decry political stagnation, raising the much-feared spectre of unrest in Algeria, and making an arguably inevitable result marginally less inevitable.

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CAN AFGHANISTAN HOLD A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION?

CAN AFGHANISTAN HOLD A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION?

On 05 April 2014, Afghanistan will go to the polls, to hold elections for a new president and over 400 provincial councillors. This will be the fifth national election held since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, but will be the first to be held on a constitutionally established election schedule, and also the first to be overseen by a permanent and independent entity, the IECC, rather than the controversial temporary bodies set up to monitor previous votes. Without a doubt, this upcoming election is an important moment in Afghanistan’s modern history, particularly in relation to its often problematic, decade-long democratic transition. A successful election that establishes a legitimate government would deal a substantial blow to the aspirations of Afghanistan’s militant groups. However, a failed election, combined with a coordinated push by Taliban forces, could provide an impetus and a rallying cry to these same extremist groups, potentially reinvigorating the insurgency that has caused so much bloodshed over the past decade. Although the elections could be crucial to the future stability of Afghanistan, the process is likely to be far from smooth, as there are a number of important obstacles that could significantly impact the chances of a successful outcome.

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THE THAI ECONOMY: DEVELOPMENTS AND CURRENT BUSINESS RISK

THE THAI ECONOMY: DEVELOPMENTS AND CURRENT BUSINESS RISK

The difficult economic situation in Thailand has led an alliance of seven private sector organisations, including the Federation of Thai Industries, a major bankers’ association and the Tourism Council of Thailand, to call on the government and the opposition to negotiation with the aim to end the conflict and the “severe” damage to the economy. The rating agency Moody’s explicitly stated, that a “prolonging of the current political deadlock into the second half of 2014” could trigger a downgrade. However a resolution is unlikely at least in the medium-term; on 21 March 2014, in a vote of six to three, Thailand’s Constitutional Court pronounced the disrupted 02 February 2014 election invalid. The ruling implies more months under Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government, which holds limited spending and decision-making powers, and whose grip on power is shaken by an ongoing impeachment trial focusing on Shinawatra’s signature rice subsidy scheme.

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UNREST IN THE CRIMEA: A VIEW FROM THE EU’S EASTERN FRONTIER

UNREST IN THE CRIMEA: A VIEW FROM THE EU’S EASTERN FRONTIER

On 17 March 2014, in the aftermath of the contested referendum in Crimea, the European Union and United States imposed sanctions on several officials from Russia and Ukraine, who were believed to have been involved in Moscow’s actions in the Black Sea Peninsula. Unsurprisingly, the measures taken were seen as lacking bite, and this was confirmed by the fact that Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty absorbing the peninsula into the Russian Federation the subsequent day. Although the West is considered to have largely exhausted its options, the White House announcement that followed the 18 March 2014 events, suggest that we may see these economic sanctions expanded further. This is all the more likely to take place if Russia advances further into Ukraine proper. Effective action against Putin is no longer just a concern for Ukraine, but also its immediate eastern European neighbours.

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SOMALIA: EDGING AWAY FROM CHAOS?

SOMALIA: EDGING AWAY FROM CHAOS?

As Somalia has attempted to shrug off its long-standing image as a ‘failed state’, a series of successful military operations against Harakat al Shabaab al Mujahideen – more commonly known as Al Shabaab – signify the beginning of a much anticipated full-scale offensive against the Islamist terrorist group. Since its emergence from the now-obsolete Union of Islamic Courts in 2006, Al Shabaab has controlled significant areas of Somalia, in which it imposes its strict interpretation of Sharia law. Despite gaining international notoriety via its merger with Ayman al Zawahiri’s Al Qaeda in 2012, however, Al Shabaab has steadily lost territory since a 2011 African Union (AU) operation forced it out of the capital, Mogadishu, which was closely followed by a subsequent operation which seized back Kismayo, a port city in the Lower Juba province which had previously generated a large portion of Al Shabaab’s income.

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BANGKOK SHUTDOWN SUSPENDED: A GAME CHANGER IN THAILAND’S POLITICAL STRUGGLE?

BANGKOK SHUTDOWN SUSPENDED: A GAME CHANGER IN THAILAND’S POLITICAL STRUGGLE?

In recent weeks, the political and security situation in Bangkok has gone from bad to worse. In the aftermath of gunmen attacks on anti-government protest rallies in the capital’s busy intersections, and the country’s easternmost Trat province, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation Chief, Tarit Pengdith warned that the country’s crisis may “escalate into civil war”, and urged “restraint and patience” on both sides of the political divide. At least twenty-three people, including children, have been killed, and around 700 have been left injured in the political unrest that plagued Thailand since late November 2013. Nonetheless, hostility between the ‘red’ and ‘yellow shirts’ continued. In a reflection of the dire circumstances, the caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul supposedly sought the advice of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in resolving in the political impasse. Until, suddenly, after seven weeks, the “shutdown”, instigated by ‘pro- establishment’ forces, came to an end.

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BERNIE ECCLESTONE: DO THE FINDINGS FROM THE DAMAGES CASE IN THE UK REALLY HAVE A BEARING ON THE GERMAN CRIMINAL TRIAL?

BERNIE ECCLESTONE: DO THE FINDINGS FROM THE DAMAGES CASE IN THE UK REALLY HAVE A BEARING ON THE GERMAN CRIMINAL TRIAL?

Formula 1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone and three other parties were accused of making a ‘corrupt bargain’ with a German banker Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky. It is alleged that they paid him £27 million in bribes to undervalue BayernLB’s stake in the sport prior to its sale to current owners CVC Capital Partners eight years ago. Constantin Medien were a shareholder in the sport and claim that they lost out on a large amount of commission as a result of Ecclestone’s dealings with Gribkowsky. A seven week hearing took place in London’s High Court aimed at establishing whether the shares were undervalued as alleged.

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WHY A PEACE DEAL MAY MEAN WAR

WHY A PEACE DEAL MAY MEAN WAR

As the Ukrainian crisis continues to unfold on 21 February 2014, the day’s deal between President Yanukovych and the opposition has seen Yanukovych and his ruling Party of Regions make far more concessions than they had previously been willing to. These include calls for a new constitution, early presidential elections to be held by December 2014 and a return to the 2004 constitution in the interim, thereby stripping Yanukovych of many of his powers. While certain concessions may be long overdue, and necessary to de-escalate the rising tensions on Kyiv’s streets, any hope that they will lead to a firm retreat from the brink of civil war, on which Ukraine now stands, are premature.

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THE SUDDEN RISE OF ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST ACTIVE TERRORIST GROUPS

THE SUDDEN RISE OF ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST ACTIVE TERRORIST GROUPS

The wild, remote and beautiful Sinai region has long been known for its lawlessness, having historically served as a key focal point for smuggling routes. Today, however, it is an active war-zone, especially in the north, where hardened Islamist militants battle almost daily against the Egyptian security forces. One of the primary fighting groups in the Sinai, Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM), has come into the limelight in recent months, quickly becoming recognised as the dominant extremist group in the area. This increased prominence can be attributed in part to its alleged involvement in a number of spectacular terrorist attacks, which are distinctly notable for the fact that they have occurred in the populous Nile Delta, far away from ABM’s strongholds in the mountains and deserts of the Sinai. ABM has gone from relative obscurity to becoming almost a household name, particularly amongst the international media fraternity, so it is important to assess just who this shadowy movement is, and where they have come from, seemingly so suddenly.

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SECURITY BRIEFINGS – UKRAINE UPDATES

SECURITY BRIEFINGS – UKRAINE UPDATES

The Inkerman Group’s Operations Centre is providing real-time security updates and risk briefings for clients with operations, staff and assets in Ukraine.

Today’s e-mail and SMS alerts for those affected by the current turmoil include:

UKRAINE – UPDATE – PROTESTS

  • Unconfirmed reports via pro-opposition sources on the ground and on social media claim security forces plan to carry out a large scale raid on Independence Square, Kyiv from 1600hrs (local time) on 19 February 2014.

UKRAINE – UPDATE – MAIDAN TURMOIL SPREADS WESTERN UKRAINE

  • Protesters sympathetic with those occupying Kiev’s Independence Square, the heart of the “Euromaidan Movement” have solidified their control of regional political and security institutions throughout Western Ukraine, having seized many Oblast-level administrative offices during protests in late January 2014.
  • As of the time of publication on 19 February 2014, demonstrators have taken control of the police headquarters of Lviv, Rivne, Ternopol and Ivano-Frankivsk Oblasts as well as numerous Ukrainian Army bases throughout the two. By and large, security forces in the region have cooperated with protesters and the Interior Minister’s Police Chief for Ivano-Frankivsk announced that he would not comply with any “illegal orders” to act against peaceful demonstrators.
  • Small-scale protests have been reported at Kharkiv University in Ukraine’s second largest city. Local militiamen, known as tityushki, are reported to have been patrolling the university’s campus as of 1500hrs (local time).
  • Large pro-government demonstrations are being held in Sevastopol, Crimea, and in Donetsk, Donetsk Oblast, where the mayor has called for Yanukovych to file treason charges against opposition politicians.
  • The Ukrainian Defence Ministry has announced that it does not intended to shift troops to help combat demonstrators, contrary to local rumours. The Inkerman Group’s intelligence resources indicate that this decision was reached due to the Army’s conscript nature, whereas the Interior Ministry troops that have been used to combat protestors are career officers, largely recruited from eastern Ukrainian cities in the Donetsk Basin, which form the heart of President Yanukovych’s support.
  • The death toll remains at twenty-five confirmed victims, ten of whom are police officers, though local sources are announcing that the death toll has now risen to twenty-six, though the final reported death has not been independently verified. Local sources indicate that the toll is to rise dramatically, given the number of seriously injured protesters being treated at a makeshift hospital in the St. Basil Monastery on nearby Lviv Square. Greek Catholic priests who run the monastery have issued statements claiming they have received threats from local “tityushki” thugs. It is estimated that as many as 1,000 injured have been treated at the monastery, with protesters fearful of reporting to government run hospitals. Activists participating in the demonstrations have previously been abducted from Kyiv’s hospitals.

Contact operationscentre@inkerman.com to subscribe to e-mail and SMS live updates on developments in-country, or for further information on our emergency response helplines and evacuation services.

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INKERMAN FRAUD WEEKLY – SPECIAL 100th EDITION

INKERMAN FRAUD WEEKLY – SPECIAL 100th EDITION

To celebrate the 100th edition of The Inkerman Fraud Weekly being published, our specialist group of intelligence and investigations analysts will be bringing you a special edition featuring:

  • 2013 fraud review from the top stories in the Fraud Weekly
  • Cyber hygiene tips from our team of security specialists
  • Employee fraud and due diligence interview with The Inkerman Group’s Screening Manager
  • Technical surveillance counter measures guide from our TSCM team
  • Cyber Security Forecast to help your business throughout 2014

 To get your FREE copy, email alice.boyes@inkerman.com

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THE NDC: FIDDLING WHILE YEMEN BURNS

THE NDC: FIDDLING WHILE YEMEN BURNS

More than four months after its official deadline passed, the Final Plenary Session of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) was held on 21 January 2014, and the framework from which the new Yemeni constitution will be constructed was agreed. With the official closing ceremony slated to be held on 25 January 2014, the details of the framework document are widely anticipated. A federal system for the future Yemeni state has been agreed upon, although how the country will be divided is still heatedly disputed. It is also expected that the Cabinet will be reorganised, and the Shura Council restructured to comprise equal numbers of representatives from the north and the south. The final session also saw delegates voting to allow President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to remain in power beyond the two-year term that he was elected for in February 2012. While many sources have reported that the decision extends his term by one year, the vote will ultimately secure Hadi’s position until another President is elected after the new constitution has been drafted and approved. Despite being lauded as a monumental success, however, the closing of the NDC comes amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation in most of the country, with very few substantive steps having been taken to resolve the underlying conflicts and grievances among the population. As the international community rushes to congratulate Yemen on its achievement, the government appears to be ignoring a host of factors which not only undermine the legitimacy of the framework document, but will also make its implementation a Sisyphean task.

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