Security Forward-Risk and Intelligence Forum’s quarterly meeting was held on 11 January at the HSBC Head Office in Canada Square, Canary Wharf, hosted by Chris Smith, Global Head of Security Risk and Member of Security Forward, who welcomed us and gave us a short introduction to our rather splendid venue.
Our first talk was by our ‘Speaker in Residence’ and Senior Adviser, Lt Col Crispin Black MBE MPhil, who gave a presentation entitled "Catastrophe in Catalonia". Crispin spoke on the political difficulties in Catalonia. He wasn't optimistic. After the failed 27 October 2017 Referendum on Independence, the imposition of direct rule by the government in Madrid, and the imprisonment or exile of the main independence leaders, it looked for a short period as if the crisis would gradually be defused. Spanish prime minister Rajoy gambled that a fresh set of provincial elections would take the wind out of the sails of the independence movement whose main leader, Carles Puigdemont, was forced to campaign from Brussels.
Rajoy miscalculated. The independence bloc, despite massive state propaganda against them, managed to secure 70 of the 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament. It looks likely that the bloc will seek to re-appoint the exiled Puigdemont as President of the Generalitat - the official name of the Catalan government - when the new Catalan parliament meets for the first time on 17 January. Rajoy's allies look set to insist that exiled or imprisoned independence MPs cannot vote unless physically present in the parliament, thus preventing Puigdemont from taking office.
Feelings are running high and it is hard to imagine a new Catalonian government being formed without considerable unrest on the streets, perhaps spilling over into inter-communal violence and attacks on the security forces. Neither side seems ready to back down and a number of previously moderate Catalans were radicalised by Madrid's heavy handed response to 27 October Referendum. Watch this space. There was a lively debate following Crispin’s presentation which led us into the coffee break.
Our second speaker was Simon Dukes, the CEO of CIFAS since 2013, before which he spent his career working for the UK Government in a variety of roles and specialisms including: counter terrorism, serious and organised crime investigations, defence & security policy, public affairs, media & communications strategy, and cyber security. As Head of Cyber Security for the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, Simon worked on the first UK Cyber Security Strategy, focusing on increasing cyber security awareness in those companies of greatest value to the UK. In addition to being CIFAS Chief Executive, Simon is also on the Oversight Board of the Home Secretary’s Joint Fraud Task Force, and the Management Board of the NCA-led joint Money Laundering Intelligence Task Force. The title of Simon’s presentation was "The Fraud Threat from Inside" and he gave a fascinating talk full of anecdotes which led to much discussion around the table.
As usual, we then held our ‘Sharing Your Current In-Tray’ session in which participants highlighted their current ‘hot issues’ and debated future topics that we should cover. This is a very valuable session and allows for the group to identify future threats and concerns, and share intelligence.
We then moved to a different room for cocktails, followed by an excellent dinner hosted by Chris Smith, HSBC. The smooth organisation and excellent service from all the staff at HSBC Head Office enhanced the day’s proceedings and allowed for a relaxed atmosphere where networking could flourish.
Our final speaker was John McHugo who spoke about his book "A Concise History of the Arabs". A signed copy was presented to each participant. The question and answer session was particularly interesting as the group contained quite a few people with a deep knowledge of the Middle East (including a three star General) and John demonstrated his broad and detailed knowledge of the Arab world and Islam. His insightful analysis and impressive scholarship allowed for an excellent discussion. His latest book is entitled "A Concise History of the Sunnis and Shi’is". We were delighted to have him as a guest speaker. Following a very fine dinner there was the opportunity for the usual sharing of cards and networking which will allow our Members to share best practice with each other.
Our Easter meeting will take place on 22 March 2018 and we will confirm the venue when we send out the invitations.