U.S. Firm Protects Life, Limb and Loot

When American Steve Vasko first arrived in Moscow in 1991, one group had a monopoly grip on the security business -- the KGB.

But the growth in organized crime since the fall of the Soviet Union -- highlighted by mafia-style shoot-outs -- has resulted in a huge growth in the demand for private security services.

"I didn't think there'd be a market here," said Vasko, the commercial director of O'Gara Security International's Moscow operations. "This new market has surprised us."

The recent murder of American businessman Paul Tatum has heightened the foreign business community's awareness of the need for reliable security services in Moscow. But even though business picked up after the assassination, Vasko said he is worried that foreign businessmen have forgotten how important it is to have the proper security.

"Some people recognize the need for security but ignore it," he said.

Vasko, 42, first came to Russia as a private consultant after working 12 years for a private security firm in the United States. He joined O'Gara as head of its Russia operations in 1993.

Vasko said his company, unlike others in Moscow, offers the complete security package: executive protection, including bodyguards; state of the art security systems; background checks and surveys of a clients' lifestyle; intelligence analysis of business partners; and the manufacture and delivery of armored vehicles in Russia.

A manufacturing facility in St. Petersburg has already produced O'Gara's first two General Motors 4x4 armored vehicles which can withstand not only AK47s and grenades, but Russian roads as well, Vasko said.