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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crime Boosts Bodyguard Industry

Manfred Schwarz is neither a top diplomat nor a high-profile millionaire. But two weeks after moving to Moscow, he decided he needed a full-time personal bodyguard.


"I release him at night when I go home to sleep, and he picks me up at the door the next morning", said Schwarz, a German marketing executive. "I just didn't feel safe".


An increasing number of foreign businessmen and women say they are hiring personal guards amid mounting crime statistics and harrowing accounts from coworkers.


With five Mafia-style shootings in public places in the last two weeks, security firms say business is booming.


"Demand is incredible - right now we don't even need to advertise", said Paul Reardon, manager of Wackenhut A/0, an international security firm that set up Moscow offices in March.


In just four months, Reardon said, the company had signed up 15 corporate clients, each using several guards. He said many clients want bodyguards because they have to conduct business transactions here in hard currency.


"Just the amount of cash that people are carrying around dictates the hiring of a bodyguard".


Business executives, including those in the banking, oil and automobile industries, report taking on bodyguards, as well as some television correspondents.


"Any foreigner or any wealthy person is a target", said Peter Gelco, who heads the Moscow offices of the oil and gas company TOTAL. He said he travels with an assistant/driver who takes care of his security needs. "I would say it's as dangerous here as New York, Chicago, any of those".


Schwarz, in charge of marketing for a Volkswagen and Audi distributor, said that shortly after he hired his guard, based on a recommendation from business associates, a visiting executive from Audi was robbed inside his four-star hotel room. He became convinced he made the right decision.


Schwarz said his bodyguard, like guards for many other security firms, formerly worked for the KGB.


For 400 Deutsche marks ($240) per month, plus overtime for evening engagements, Schwarz has a fully armed shadow wherever he travels. and his guard now earns about triple what his superiors in the Security Ministry earned, Schwarz said.


"He was at the KGB eight years and was in charge of following strangers and taking notes on what they do", Schwarz said. "He is very well trained and very trustworthy".


Reardon said that poor government salaries have supplied Wackenhut with an excellent source of employees.


"Some of the best guards are people from the KGB", he said. Ninety percent of the firm's personnel are either former police or KGB officers, he said, who have been retrained by the firm in everything from Western grooming to karate.


The company charges $7 per hour for its services, and guards follow instructions as explicit as the physical distance they must maintain from the client as well as the kinds of aftershave and deodorant they should use (one demands Old Spice), Reardon said.


The impression that the city is getting more dangerous is borne out by statistics: More than 7, 000 foreigners were victimized so far this year alone, compared to 8, 300 for all of 1992, the Interior Ministry reported.


While Moscow's police chief has vowed to make fighting street crime a top priority, headline-grabbing shootings at a Moscow restaurant, nightclub and car dealership within the past two weeks have not helped public confidence.


Two Americans witnessed one of the recent shootings, at the night club Metelitsa on the Novy Arbat.


Kevin Kroushinsky, who works for the Moscow International Press Center and Club, said that as he, his employer and a bodyguard looked on, they saw two men shooting a third about five meters away.


One of security firm Wackenhut's guards, a former OMON officer who would not give his name, said it is particularly frustrating for guards when foreigners visit nightclubs. Prostitutes and other elements of organized crime make them dangerous places, he said.


But the mere process of finding a bodyguard can be as dangerous as any late-night entertainment. Some of the recent entrants to the security business have dubious backgrounds. The firm INEX, for example, advertises an escort service at the same number for its bodyguards.


Schwarz said his guard has already protected him from one theft.


"Once on the old Arbat on a Sunday some pickpocket went to get my wallet, and boom, he was there", said Schwarz, who also had a bodyguard when he worked in South Africa eight years ago. "I didn't even realize it, but he was right behind me and he was looking".