War Profiteer of the Month: G4S
G4S plc (formerly Group 4 Securicor) is a British multinational security services company headquartered in Crawley, United Kingdom. It is the world's largest security company measured by revenues and has operations in around 125 countries. G4S was founded in 2004 by the merger of the UK-based Securicor plc with the Denmark-based Group 4 Falck.
In 2004 G4S bought private military and security company (PMSC) ArmorGroup and in doing so joined the shadowy world of privatised war. PMSCs have been accused of profiting from war, conflict, and political instability at the expense of security and human rights.
The British government has already played a large role in the growth of this industry by endorsing its widespread use in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the three years 2007-2009 the industry earned £62.8 million in contracts from the UK government. Almost all of the Foreign Office's contracts have gone to ArmorGroup, now part of G4S. In June this year, defence secretary Philip Hammond, announced 30,000 Army jobs would go amid spending cuts, citing the need to use "more systematically the skills available in the reserve and from our contractors".
G4S has its origins in a guarding business founded in Copenhangen in 1901 by Marius Hogrefe originally known as Kjøbenhavn Frederiksberg Nattevagt (which translates as Copenhagen and Frederiksberg Night Watch) and subsequently renamed Falck. In 2000 Group 4, a security firm formed in the 1960s, merged with Falck to form Group 4 Falck. In 2002 Group 4 Falck went on to buy The Wackenhut Corporation in the USA. In 2003 Group 4 Falck signed a Detention Services Contract with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs in Autralia. Under this contract Group 4 Falck took over direct control of Australia's refugee detention centres from Correctional Management, owned by its subsidiary Wackenhut, which had run them since 1998. In 2004 Group 4 Falck merged with Securicor, a security firm founded in 1935 in London, to form G4S.
In 2006, 2007 and 2008 G4S was the subject of a global campaign by union workers alleging that its subsidiaries undermine labour and human rights standards. Some of these groups were organised under the banner of the SEIU-funded Focus on Group 4 Securicor. This group supported protests at Group 4 Securicor's annual general meeting in London in 2005 and again in 2006.
The 2006 US State Department Report on Human Rights in Indonesia released in March 2006 featured the on-going dispute in Jakarta with Group4/Securicor. In July 2006 the Indonesian Securicor workers had a substantial win – but the campaigners continue to support other Group 4 Securicor workers.
In March 2008, it was announced that G4S were taking over Scottish Rock Steady Group – who steward at major sporting and music events mostly in the UK. Rock Steady events have included Live8 concerts in London, Scottish FA Cup Final & the DOwnload Festival. In April 2008, G4S acquired RONCO Consulting Corporation, one of the world’s premier humanitarian and commercial mine action, ordnance disposal and security companies.
In May 2008, G4S acquired ArmorGroup International. Also in May 2008 G4S plc completed its £355 million acquisition of Global Solutions Limited.
In 2008, G4S also acquired Touchcom, Inc. for US$23 million. Touchcom, Inc. is located in the Burlington/Bedford, Massachusetts area. The rebranding of Touchcom, Inc. to G4S was completed by 1 January 2012.
In 2009, an Aboriginal man from Western Australia died of heat stroke after being transported in a G4S (then GSL) van without air conditioning or water. Criminal charges were never laid despite a GSL company spokesperson admitting there were "grounds for concern". This came after GSL had already been criticised in 2005 for their handling of Australia's detained immigrants in a report undertaken by former Head of Queensland's Corrective Services Keith Hamburger.
In the autumn of 2009, G4S personnel in Australia went on strike, arguing that the company had subjected them to low pay and poor working conditions. The strike imperiled the operations of the court system in the state of Victoria. The guards provided entry-point screening for weapons and bombs in both the County Court and Magistrates Court, as well as additional security in the court rooms themselves.
On 17 October 2011, G4S announced it would purchase Danish facilities management group, ISS A/S in a deal worth £5,200 million. The merger would have created the world's largest security, facilities management company. Within two weeks, the deal was killed due to lack of shareholder support. A combination of institutional investors who led the response and the minority shareholders who followed, objected to a variety of factors, not the least of which was the additional leverage and debt the deal would introduce to G4S's balance sheet. General consensus is that lack of planning for shareholder response on the G4S side doomed the deal. Furthermore, many investors and analysts questioned why the company would want to purchase a firm so far removed from its area of expertise.
G4S's principal activity is the provision of security services, including care services, justice services, manned security services, cash services including the management and transportation of cash and valuables, and other outsourced business processes related to security and safety risks. G4S has around 657,000 employees across 125 countries and is headquartered in Crawley, United Kingdom. Its customers include governments, corporates, financial institutions, utilities, ports and airports, transport and logistics providers, and consumers. Government contracts accounted for 27% of G4S's turnover in 2011.
G4S operates custody facilities on behalf of law enforcement agencies, including seven prisons in England and Wales. It provides guarding services at airports including Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, Oslo Airport, Brussels Airport, Schiphol Airport, and OR Tambo Airport as well as at facilities belonging to US, UK, Canada and European governments.
G4S & Israeli Occupation
Through its Israeli subsidiary, G4S Israel (Hashmira), the company has provided equipment for Israeli-run checkpoints and terminals in the West Bank and Gaza, including luggage scanning machines and full body scanners.
G4S provided security system for prisons for Palestinian political prisoners in Israel and the West Bank, including the Ktziot, Megido and Damon Prisons in Israel and the Ofer prison in the West Bank. G4S Israel clearly indicates in its website that it provides services and security systems to prisons which hold “security prisoners”, that is Palestinian political prisoners.
The company also provided security systems for the Kishon (“Al-Jalameh”) and Jerusalem (“Russian Compound”) detention and interrogation facilities. Human rights organisations have collected evidence showing that Palestinian prisoners are regularly subjected to torture in these facilities.
G4S Israel provides security systems to the Israel armored corps base of Nachshonim, which was donated by the US army in accordance with the Wye River Memorandum. The company operates security patrol units, which as the company states, are manned by “worriers who graduated elite combat units in the Israeli army”
In addition, G4S Israel provided equipment to the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters, located in the occupied E-1area next to the Ma'ale Adumim settlement, located 7km west of Jerusalem. The company provides security services to various businesses in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
G4S subsidiary Wackenhut, in September of 2005, faced allegations of security lapses at seven military bases where it was contracted to provide services. The company claimed the accusations were false and promoted by a union seeking to enrol its employees.
In March of 2006, whistle-blowers employed at Wackenhut released information to the press revealing that the company cheated on an anti-terrorism drill at a US nuclear site. It also performed poorly on another drill at a separate location. The allegations claimed that Wackenhut systematically violated weapons inventory and handling policies and that managers showed new hires spots at the facilities where they could take naps and cut corners during patrols.
The following winter, the New York Times reported that the Exelon Corporation would replace Wackenhut as an in-house security provider at ten US nuclear power plants. This followed the discovery of guards sleeping while on the clock.
Death of Jimmy Mubenga
In October 2010, three G4S-guards heavily restrained and held down 46-year old Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga on departing British Airways flight 77, at Heathrow Airport. Security guards kept him restrained in his seat as he began shouting and seeking to resist his deportation. Police and paramedics were called when Mubenga lost consciousness. The aircraft, which had been due to lift off, then returned to the terminal. Mubenga was pronounced dead later that evening at Hillingdon hospital. Passengers reported hearing cries of "don't do this" and "they are trying to kill me." Scotland Yard's homicide unit began an investigation after the death became categorised as "unexplained". Three private security guards, contracted to escort deportees for the Home Office, were released on bail, after having been interviewed about the incident. Nobody was charged for the death of Mubenga.
In February of 2011, The Guardian reported that G4S guards in the United Kingdom had been repeatedly warned about the use of potentially lethal force on detainees and asylum seekers. Confidential informants and several employees released the information to reporters after G4S's practices allegedly led to the death of Jimmy Mubenga. An internal document urged management to "meet this problem head on before the worst happens" and that G4S was "playing Russian roulette with detainees' lives."The following autumn, the company once again faced allegations of abuse. G4S guards were accused of verbally harassing and intimidating detainees with offensive and racist language.
Failure to meet London 2012 Security Contract
In March 2011 the London 2012 Organising Committee announced that G4S Secure Solutions (UK) was appointed official Security Services Provider for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
On 12 July 2012 it was announced that 3,500 British troops would be deployed at the 2012 Summer Olympics due to a shortage of adequately trained G4S security staff, with Labour MP Keith Vaz claiming that, "G4S has let the country down and we have literally had to send in the troops." War on Want campaigns and policy director, Ruth Tanner, said: "The G4S Olympics scandal exposes the danger of the governments blind faith in the power of the market to deliver everything from policing to war. Despite the ever present threat to human rights and security, successive governments have ducked imposing tough regulation on this industry. Instead the government is happy to let them police themselves. Rather than leading the way in outsourcing wars to companies like G4S, the British government must end the privatisation of war and hold these companies to account."