It’s a Good Time to Be a Bodyguard in Brazil

The head of high-end security firm walks us through his game plan for the World Cup

Tens of thousands of people have descended on Brazil for the World Cup. Over the next few weeks, they’ll cheer on their favorite footballers, drink a boatload of caipirinhas, get bronzed at Copacabana—maybe even take in a protest.

And at some point, one of these visitors—or probably more than one—will get kidnapped, perhaps killed.

Brazil has long had high rates of murder and kidnapping, particularly so-called quicknappings, or express kidnappings. We reported earlier this year that the most populous Latin American country has more than 6,000 kidnappings a year. There is also the occasional motorbike-jacking that winds up on YouTube.

To help prevent a crime spree during the Cup, which is spread among 12 different cities, Brazil has shelled out $14 billion for security, the most ever spent for any World Cup. It has also hired Academi (formerly Blackwater) to train Brazilian security forces and help it “pacify” the country’s urban slums, known as favelas. It will also deploy 170,000 police, military and law enforcement officers. That’s 22 percent more than the number of security personnel used in South Africa during the last World Cup.

But some people are too important—or rich—to place their faith in Brazilian security: They’re hiring their own protection to help them avoid protests, traffic stoppages and other scenarios where they could be snatched. Demand for heavies is so brisk that some firms are tapping off-duty Brazilian federal police, and prices are up significantly from the usual rates.

Francisco Quinones, the founder and managing director of the security firm Arcis International, has personally worked over 150 kidnap-for-ransom and extortion cases throughout Latin America, Africa and South Asia. He says his company already has clients for the Cup, though he won’t name names. We asked him to tell us what people are paying for bodyguards over the next few weeks, what they’re getting for that money, and where the greatest risks are.

What is the most elaborate security that some of your richest clients are buying?  

Quinones says just one driver and one bodyguard to keep you company aren’t enough for some people. “You need an advance team,” he says.

That includes “a driver or a person who does the route reconnaissance of where you’re going to go, stakes out the hotel, stakes out the local hospitals. He leaves about five minutes ahead of time to get caught up on traffic conditions or routes that they can deviate,” he adds.

“Then you have a two-vehicle convoy, so if a vehicle breaks down and you’re a high-net-worth individual and for some reason you have a flat tire, you’re not going to wait there until another car shows up. You just go back to the car behind you.”

What does the top of the line security cost?

“For those six guys alone in three vehicles, you’re probably looking at a good $10,000 a day.”

He continues, “On the lower-end, a driver, an armored vehicle, and an armed agent could run you around $2,000 per day for 10 to 12 hours.”

Don’t expect these guards to pack uzis and big assault rifles. “It’s all handguns,” says Quinones.

How much have prices for bodyguard services spiked during the Cup?

“By 30 percent,” says Quinones.

Will it be easier for harder for kidnappers to grab people during World Cup than other times of year?

“It’s going to be a little bit harder to track somebody in the middle of the World Cup when you have a million tourists walking around,” says Quinones.

To safeguard a client, Quinones says there is technology that can monitor social media and track down IP addresses in the event a potential threat is texting the name of a high net worth client.

What is the biggest security threat for people attending the World Cup?

“An assault on the street late at night by a random thief who attacks you to steal your wallet/belongings,” says Quinones. “This is mainly because it is quick, easy to do.”

What’s the likeliest place for an attack during the Cup?

“Walking openly in the streets. Particularly late at night, shortly after leaving bars or restaurants and alert level is not there if you have been partying/celebrating,” he says.

Say you’ve been kidnapped. What should you do?

“Have a plan ahead of time—know whom to call for help when the kidnappers ask for a ransom, have a way to make quick withdrawal of emergency cash, etc.,” says Quinones.

What’s the most creative thing the government is doing to make the Cup safer?

“Some local unions are using World Cup to protest,” says Quinones. “They are harshly being put down by the police.”

 

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