The Kim Kardashian Paris Heist - An Expert’s Insider View
Jag Sidhu, Specialist Security Consultant at Leisuresec Plc
Every so often events occur that capture the attention of the popular press and media, becoming the topic of much opinion and speculation. Recently a great deal of coverage and attention was afforded to the robbery of Kim Kardashian in a Paris hotel, during which she was bound and gagged after five robbers gained entry to her room and stole a jewellery box containing valuables worth nearly $7 million as well as a ring worth $4.5 million, which Kardashian had flaunted on Instagram.
There has been a great deal of criticism of Kim’s bodyguard which may possibly be unfair as we will see.
As security specialists we have repeatedly been asked for our opinion of the robbery, what we feel went wrong and how the close protection effort could have been better managed.
Tried and Tested Protocols
When aiming to provide protection to an individual there are established (tried and tested) sets of protocols and strategies that should underpin any Close Protection assignment, no matter how large or small it may be. This in itself is a cause for debate and some have argued that there is a distinction between a Bodyguard and a Minder, the latter being generally perceived as a purely physical presence who escorts the individual - he protects and often has little or no formal training or competence in close protection.
The starting point and primary consideration of any Close Protection operation is a detailed Threat Assessment - this is not the same as a Risk Assessment and specifically considers and establishes specific threats against our Principal (the person we are hired to protect).
The Threat Assessment is the cornerstone of Close Protection and as we shall see, the threat drives everything - the nature of the operation, the size of the team, the skill sets in the team and even whether we should take on the assignment or not. It is not uncommon to turn down an assignment if the Principal or client doesn’t take the threat seriously or the budget doesn’t afford adequate protection.
Simply put “you can’t run a Formula One team on a Go-Kart budget.”
Detailed Threat Assessment
We complete a detailed threat assessment which then helps devise a detailed Security Deployment Plan. Within this Threat Assessment we look at completing a Principal Profile (either with the Principal or sometimes a close aide) and this establishes any past threats or attacks, any current family or business feuds, habits (for example does the Principal gamble, play golf, visit clubs, brothels etc.)
Although the Principal Profile is a critical and valuable document it is by no means conclusive, sometimes we do not get all the facts, Principals will sometimes withhold information that they find embarrassing or that they feel may portray them in a poor light, or they may simply be unaware. For this reason we also triangulate information, find out about any possible threats by consulting with local intelligence services (in this case in Paris) we can also research via the internet, look at guidance from Foreign and Commonwealth Office about risks of travelling to certain destinations, consult foreign embassies and talk to team members who may have operated recently in the same locations and are therefore well versed with any threats that need considering.
Study the Itinerary
We then look at the Principal’s Itinerary, places they will visit, places they will stay as well as routes to and from all of these. As you can see this is a tedious but essential planning exercise if we intend to keep our Principal safe: “Failing to plan is planning to fail“.
Once a threat or series of threats is established we need to consider how serious the threat is. We look at individuals or organisations and establish and consider Capability, Motivation, and Opportunity. This enables us to also cater for the modus operandi: Is the threat physical / ballistic / surveillance / kidnap / robbery?
Any protection provided must be commensurate to the threat; if the threat is surveillance it may be necessary to employ our own counter surveillance specialists, sending a bodyguard in this case would be foolish.
The Threat also then influences the team (numbers, skills, dress, and equipment).
Was this level of planning in place for the Kardashians? We would have to say no, unless the Principal in this case ignored advice from security specialists (this is not as uncommon as it may sound).
Did the family go for the cheapest quote? Unwise but it’s how large organisations sometimes choose suppliers.
There has been much criticism of the bodyguard the Kardashians used, he says he was escorting one of the other sisters when the robbery took place. Clearly this was never a one man job, there should have been a residential security team (their sole responsibility being the residence - in this case the hotel). This would have allowed the bodyguard to escort one of the other family members knowing that Kim was in the hotel with security in place. Strictly speaking if he was Kim’s personal bodyguard then he would have stayed with Kim and perhaps another bodyguard could have been deployed even if it was one of the residential security team.
Again this case does seem to signpost a lack of planning. The first questions we would ask are, who are we looking after? Is there likely to be any other family members visiting? Will they require protection? (This would mean allocation of additional bodyguards).
A Layered Approach to Close Protection
Close protection usually takes a layered approach and with those as high profile as the Kardashians it would be commonplace to have one bodyguard for the Principal and several other escorts working alongside (a Personal Escort Section).
Another important element of a Close Protection team - and I believe in this case critical - is the advanced party. These are operatives who visit all venues beforehand to establish their suitability and liaise with staff and security - in this case the hotel. The advanced party also puts together a deployment plan for the venues and establishes best routes of travel, driving the routes beforehand (ideally at the same time and on the same day of the week of planned travel to check timings and vulnerable points).
This element of a team can check security and precautions and choose a venue that best secures the Principal. We are led to believe that the hotel in question had one concierge who allowed visitors in and had access to Kim Kardashians room. Apparently Kanye West has used this hotel before and was happy with their security arrangements.
Venue Selection – Job for an Expert!
It has to be said that one’s first instincts are that the hotel did not seem adequate and herein lies the problem, how qualified is Kanye West to select the best hotel? Was he possibly looking at fixtures and fittings? Or the fact that he’s never had a problem when he’s stayed there before (this could be more luck than judgement). According to social media reports Kanye personally oversees the security arrangements for Kim and her family, sometimes Principals and clients overrule their security advisors - was this the case in this instance?
Occasionally there can be conflict with clients (the person that hires you) and the Principal (the person you look after). For example the client (record company) may not wish the Principal to attend an after party (possibly due to a drink or drugs problem). In this instance you may upset your Principal by telling them they are not allowed to attend an event. Worse still, occasionally the client doesn’t believe security is an issue ‘nothing’s happened before’ so they compromise the Principal by not providing adequate protection.
Further still, on occasions it’s the Principal themselves that that doesn’t take the threat seriously and they request a lone bodyguard. Ideally the security advisors should advise the client/Principal of the risks and state they would not be prepared to take on the job unless more officers were deployed or a more suitable hotel were selected (many hotels have their own security protocols and are used to accommodating celebrities and VIPs and liaising with Close Protection teams).
Use of Intelligence by Police
A few years ago Cheryl Cole - as she was then - was given a very expensive engagement ring by Ashley Cole and there were pictures in all the glossy magazines of this ring (worth £50,000) - it was highly publicised.
The London Met Police then stated that they had infiltrated a plot by an organised criminal syndicate to target Cheryl Cole and steal the ring. Given the media attention given to Kim‘s extensive jewellery collection ($10,000,000 worth of jewellery stolen) the security provision does appear to have been wholly inadequate. It beggars belief that the insurers of her jewellery didn’t stipulate some terms and conditions for the safe carriage of such valuable assets.
Although we do not have all the details yet (I’m sure insurance investigators are working on it) the robbery does seem to have all the hallmarks of an inside job, which suggests strongly that staff at the hotel or possibly security staff or individuals close to the Kardashians were to some degree complicit in the robbery.
Series of Incidents
Even a cursory search of incidents involving the family will reveal in 2014 alone the Kardashian-Jenner clan has needed police assistance more often than they would want. After a series of burglaries that hit the family, the showbiz clan's matriarch Kris Jenner was reportedly involved in an FBI investigation relating to a woman suspected of sending her death threats.
A hotel room in the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel was raided by the FBI in connection with complaints from the Kardashian-Jenner family. The hotel room's occupant, reportedly a black female, was suspected to have been making numerous calls to Kris Jenner and threatening to endanger her life.
Several gadgets were confiscated from said hotel room. The woman's laptop computer, iPad, iPod Touch and mobile phone were taken by FBI agents and subjected to further investigation. The same woman is suspected to have been behind threats to release a sex tape starring Kris and Bruce Jenner which had been previously mentioned in episodes of "Keeping up with the Kardashians." The woman reportedly harassed Kris and her family through numerous calls sometimes reaching up to 300 times in a single day.
Apart from the harassment, the family also needed police assistance in several other matters. Kris was victimised by thieves when she flew to Vienna, Austria with Kim. Her suitcases were opened and hundreds of thousands worth of shoes, bags and other valuable items were taken. Back in Los Angeles, both her daughters Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian's homes were burgled. Khloe's incident was documented in a recent episode of their reality show where she discovered pieces of her ex-husband Lamar Odom's jewellery had gone missing from their bedroom. Kourtney's house in California was robbed as well and involved $4,000 in cash disappearing from the home she was staying one summer at The Hamptons.
Latest Video Evidence Revealed!
Video has now surfaced from the night Kim Kardashian was robbed in Paris, showing her alleged attackers approaching her private hotel on bicycles and on foot.
France's M6 news channel published the video, which shows five people, three on bicycles and two on foot, approaching Kim's apartment in the Hotel de Pourtales at 2:19 a.m. on October 3.
According to the time code on the CCTV footage, the suspects fled the apartment roughly 49 minutes later. A bag can be seen on the front of one bicycle.
It is undeniable that security was inadequate, planning poor, absent or ignored by Kanye West, putting Kim Kardashian in a highly vulnerable position where she was lucky only her jewellery was stolen - she could have been kidnapped or murdered. Typically we are now informed that Kanye is reviewing the family’s security arrangements which is going to be considerably increased. Sadly Kim Kardashian is reported to be scared to leave her house now and has cancelled a number of her bookings costing her a considerable loss of revenue. Unfortunately this is all too often the case, security is reactive and an afterthought, with good planning and proactive measures in place the whole incident could have been avoided altogether.