A couple of weeks ago, one of the Senior Analysts in our Social Media Monitoring Practice briefed us on a very unusual – but highly skilled attack on an affluent family – the Formula One star Jenson Button and his wife Jessica – in their villa in Saint-Tropez, France.  Our analyst had a simple note with her transmission – “Whoa, this is scary!”  And she was right.  It was scary.

Anesthetic Gas in the AC System

This could have been a scene straight out of Mission Impossible, The Bourne Identity or any of the classic James Bond films.  As illustrated above in a graphic by the British newspaper, the Sun, the couple was targeted by a brazen group of inventive thieves who pumped anesthetic gas through the air conditioning vents of the family’s villa to incapacitate not only the couple, but also three of their friends vacationing with them.  Suddenly, a close-knit group of friends aspiring to enjoy the final days of summer in this coastal town on the French Riviera were awakened to the stark reality that their privacy and sense of security had been violated in a fearful and overpowering attack.   

Currently, These Attacks Appear Limited to France

As trusted advisors to many affluent families around the world, our immediate concern went to the families we support – was this a new threat to them?  Upon closer examination, we quickly discovered that this was not the first assault of this nature.  In 2010, there were two such attacks in the south of France and another one last year near Marseille.

Fortunately, for this family – and the others noted above – the thieves were only interested in their valuables.  This harrowing assault netted the enterprising thieves almost $500,000 in precious gems and jewelry, including Ms. Button’s engagement ring.

While attacks like this grab headline news and make for great cocktail conversation, the good news is that this threat is frankly not a concern for most of our clients or other affluent families around the world.  That is, however, with one notable exception –those who happen to live a high-profile, conspicuous lifestyle and are known to jet set around the French Rivera should take precautions.

Countering this Threat: Security Countermeasures to Consider

If you fit into this category or, like us, advise and support high net worth individuals and families who live or vacation in the South of France on occasion, you might want to consider the following:

  1. Know your environment.  These attacks targeted private homes and villas in resort areas.  Be sure your home away from home has reliable alarm and intrusion detection systems. Most importantly, turn them on when you are in residence. 
  2. Ensure the air and ventilation systems are secured, alarmed and video monitored.
  3. Consider the viability of anesthetic gas detection monitors.  
  4. Select residential environments with 24-hour protective services.

Does this modus operandi have a chance of spreading?  Probably not to the point of concern for most affluent families, but we’ll keep tabs on topic to ensure it doesn’t become a fast-moving trend.  What do you think?  


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