Security Risk
Litigation Support

We are a consultancy with longstanding experience in organisational resilience and security risk. We are also accredited expert witnesses in security with a track record of success in international arbitration and civil litigation.

Our Team

Julian Davies

Julian is an accredited expert witness in Security, and has successfully represented clients in civil litigation in the High Court of Justice, and in investor-State dispute settlement at the World Bank’s ICSID.

He also co-leads Cygnus’s consulting practise. Over a twenty-year period, he has accumulated a vast amount of experience in security risk and crisis consultancy and management. From 2005 to 2011 he managed security for mining, power generation and hydrocarbon projects in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and East Africa. From 2011 until 2020 he was the Head of Consulting for a global risk and intelligence advisory company, where he led a very diverse portfolio of projects.

He is a former Major in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, and was a helicopter pilot and squadron commander in the Army Air Corps. He has operational experience in Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. In 2004 and 2005, he was embedded with the US Army on combat operations in Baghdad.

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Ben Ashwell

Ben specialises in risk policy, security operations and capability building. He has worked in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. 

His recent work has focussed on risks stemming from environmental activism, insurgency, and loss of community acceptance. He has advised senior stakeholders in critical infrastructure, financial services, technology, extractives, and telecoms.

Before founding Cygnus, Ben led the security consulting business of a global intelligence and risk consulting firm. He is a former Captain in the British Army and Royal Marines and has operational experience across the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Johnny specialises in litigation and dispute resolution. He is a qualified lawyer and Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales, with experience in the UK and overseas – particularly the Middle East and North Africa.

Johnny’s work enables our clients to maintain oversight of the legal considerations and constraints of their actions, ensuring compliance with the laws of their home jurisdiction and the other jurisdictions in which they operate.

Prior to his career in law, he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army’s Royal Armoured Corps where he gained operational experience in the Middle East.

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Our Track Record

With over 40 years of collective experience, we are trusted by world leading organisations to help them build resilience against complex and unpredictable risks.

Expert Witness, World Bank’s ICSID Tribunal

International Arbitration - Pakistan

The case highlights how flawed risk assessments and mitigation strategies can threaten the viability and value of megaprojects.

Our expert opinion was that Tethyan’s failure to include and plan for risk scenarios for the sole export pipeline, which if built would have run for 750 km through a desert area with an active insurgency, would have introduced a very high probability of serious and persistent disruption.

Compensation was reduced by $US 8,500,000,000 after the tribunal accepted our expert opinion that Tethyan’s security risk assessments were inadequate, and that Pakistan probably would have offered Tethyan a 15-year tax compensation and might have declined to renew the licence.

Critical Infrastructure Risk

Hydrocarbons - Western Europe

We advised the operator of a Western European country’s hydrocarbon import, refining and distribution network on strategic risk policy and governance. The company’s concerns centred on potential future threats to national energy security stemming from eco-terrorism, involving high consequence sabotage against fossil fuel infrastructure. We modelled plausible threat scenarios and their probabilities, and helped  the company define a proportionate risk tolerance. We then evaluated the cost-effectiveness of mitigation options to allow the company to scale up its responses if the threats emerged.

Security Capability Building

Telecommunications - Global

We wrote the global security policy, operational procedures, minimum standards and guidelines for a global telecommunications company to support its security capability building program. Because the company was exposed to a broad range of security threats across its global operations, it was important that security policy was scalable to the threat in every specific locality. The resulting security framework allowed for good oversight, monitoring and accountability at the level of governance, whilst providing flexibility and appropriate autonomy at the operational level.

Expert witness, High Court of Justice

Civil Litigation - England

The claim is an instructive example of how fraud may be proved by a careful accumulation of factual and expert evidence when, as is so often the case, there is otherwise no smoking gun. The claim brought to light a fraud practiced in the security guarding industry known as “ghosting”. Ghosting is the illegal and dishonest practice of charging a client for time which is not in fact worked. It can be notoriously difficult to detect in the industry.

The defence was successful. The Judge found that the First Claimant knew about the fraud and must have known (or that he had Nelsonian blind-eye knowledge) of the resultant falsity of the financial information being presented to the Defendants. An attempt by the First Claimant to rely on a contractual non-reliance clause was rejected.

Market Entry & Risk Strategy

Hydrocarbons - Somaliland

We advised two oil companies on their ‘go / no-go / wait’ decision before committing to exploration and production in Somaliland, where the risk environment was poorly understood, and information was hard to access.

We conducted in-country research to understand clan-based community structures and social priorities and assessed likely social acceptance challenges. This was overlaid with a need to understand the potential threats from a latent and ill-defined separatist insurgency, as well as border demarcation issues between Somaliland and neighbouring Puntland.

Investigation: Risk Processes

Near-shore gas production - Mozambique

Chief investigator and lead report author in a formal investigation into the root and contributing causes of a fatal security event that threatened the viability of a large foreign direct investment project, worth more than $20 Bn.

The investigation centred on the failures in risk policy and implementation. To make sense of a very complex web of factors, we combined security intelligence gathering, causal analysis and an in-depth review of human behavioural factors, against the backdrop of a rapidly developing insurgency in the operational area.

Latest Insights

Unleashing the Power of Predictive Analytics: Transforming Risk-based Decision Making with Data

March 28, 2024
In our work as expert witnesses and investigators we have noticed that rigorous, quantitative evaluation of security threats and other related risks is almost always absent in feasibility studies and other formal evaluations of the viability of large projects and investments. Insofar as these risks are considered, the risk assessment methodology tends to lack depth and reliability, in comparison to..

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Forecasting Russian options after Ukraine (January ’24 update)

January 2, 2024
“Intelligence services of several European countries have started to [examine] a possibility of attack on their territory from Russia… Even those countries that were not in the USSR.” President Volodymr Zelensky, 1 January 2024. In this short article we summarise the scenarios that emerge from our net assessment of Russia’s military options after Ukraine. We think this forecasting exercise is useful in..

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