The body guard: 'kidnapping of executives for profit is an industry in some countries'--Sunil Ram.
It is easy to imagine an interview with Ram as something out of a Tom Clancy novel.
Ram, an imposing figure at nearly six feet, dark complexion, business suit and long coat, arrives to a pre-arranged meeting place a little earlier than expected. Ram and interviewer meet in a mall abuzz with Christmas shoppers to discuss issues of security where, in some parts of the world, kidnapping for profit is an industry.
Ram's voice occasionally drops to a near conspiratorial level when broaching some subjects such as international terrorism, security and some of the jobs he has worked.
Ram is director of operations for ESSI, an agency that provides security and protection for executives and celebrities, as well as training programs, safety and security seminars for non-profit agencies and even escort and anti-theft services for retail stores.
ESSI also provides private investigation services and security for construction sites and security consultations for everyone from private citizens to corporate executives.
"We pretty much do everything from A to Z," says Ram, 38, who, initially had considered a career in policing, and has been training and gaining experience in the security business for about 20 years. "We do all kinds of work from security for celebrities to escorts into court for abused women. We're not just working for the wealthy."
"The nice thing about this job is that every day's different. You just never know what to expect."
If it should seem unusual that he would be in Huntsville, given the business he is in, Ram says the quality of life in Muskoka drew him to the community.
"I lived 27 or 28 years in Toronto and I decided it was enough of that," he says.
"Coming up here, for the first seven or eight years, it was a rough start," says Ram. "Down in Toronto and other major cities, companies understand security. In the many years I've been up here, the major businesses have begun to understand the role security plays. They are starting to understand they're not safe from the criminal element. Hey, a lot of criminals come up here to rip off vehicles and rob our banks. They're thinking that a rural area, because of its seclusion and lack of security, becomes an easier target."
Ram operates ESSI, but he employs 20 to 30 "on-call" people around the world, depending on the type of job. Their backgrounds run the gamut of former American Special Forces and Central Intelligence Agency people and other counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency specialists.
Ram has seen more Northern Ontario executives travelling abroad to do business and calling on his services. Countries such as Columbia and others in South America have witnessed the act of kidnapping for ransom become an industry.
He adds the post 9/11 world has also contributed to a sharp increase in the demand for protective services for executives and employees both travelling abroad and domestically.
"With Canada's participation in the war on terrorism, this could mean problems for Canadian businesses abroad," he says. "It's by no means an over-exaggeration. The reality of it is that we are living in a different day, and 9/11 changed a lot of things."
"Many companies are finding their insurance company demanding they meet certain requirements and some companies are being sued because they failed to protect their employees," he says. "It's important they speak to their insurance company to find out exactly what they are requiring and what security measures they need to have in place to protect themselves."
In addition to providing security for the many top corporate executives and celebrities who come to Northern Ontario to relax and play, Ram says he has a number of client companies in Northern Ontario. His services include providing protection for executives travelling abroad to providing anti-theft services in stores, construction sites and automobile dealers. He does not name specific ones of course.
In this line of business one has to have people who have the proper training in the use of firearms, defensive and offensive driving and the ability to read a situation to know where the threats are and the best ways to stay out of danger.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in security who are ex-police officers who, unfortunately, do not have the training for this. They may be great in some situations, but unless you have the propetraining, and just because you've carried a gun for 20 years, you're not going to be able do this kind of work.
"This really is a matter of life and death."
Sameer Ahmed, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, says Canadian business is gaining an ever-increasing profile on the international scene.
Over the past 10 years, Canada's exports have jumped from 23 per cent of gross domestic product to close to 47 per cent, and "more and more companies are looking to do business overseas," Ahmed says. Conversely, 87 per cent of the exporting Canada does goes to the United States, while 13 per cent goes to the rest of the world. Of that 13 per cent, only about two per cent goes to countries other than the European Union countries, Japan and South Korea.
"While the share has not gone up, certainly the volume has," he says. "While the share might stay at only two or three per cent, generally more and more companies are exporting overseas."
Given that fact, the federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade does maintain up-to-date information on all countries of the world, what foreign travelers should expect and what precautions they should take.
"Business people who choose to take extra precautions are entitled to do so, but they need to recognize that, even as Canadians, they still need to be aware of and abide by the domestic laws of that country," says Ahmed.
When going into an environment such as a corporate setting where Ram's company has been asked to conduct a security audit or deal with company theft by employees, there is a considerable amount of research that staff have to do in order to fit in.
As a result, employees are frequently caught in a variety of situations from taking money from the till to embezzling from the company, he says. A large number caught are in positions of management and so have the access to keys and accounts. And while companies frequently opt to have the person charged, many will simply give the person a choice.
"We have the advantage of being the outsider," he says. "You work with people for 20 years, you become family. Many companies will simply tell them "Pack your bags and get out or we'll charge you.""
By ANDREW WAREING
Northern Ontario Business
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|Title Annotation:||Special Report on Sudbury--Section Two|
|Publication:||Northern Ontario Business|
|Article Type:||Cover Story|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
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