There aren’t many people who would describe claims investigating in some of the world’s most dangerous countries as “easy”.
But when your previous career involved guarding a notorious Mafia boss and ensuring the Pope’s holiday plans went without incident – it becomes a little more understandable.
These were just two of the assignments Nico Pierni handled during his time with the Carabinieri, Italy’s elite military police force, before he was snapped up by Tangiers International to head its Asia operation.
Nico, born and raised in the Northern Italian city of Brescia, harboured a desire to “fight criminals and help people” from a young age and, after signing up as a Carabinieri recruit at 17, this dream was soon to be realised.
During his career with the corps, he was involved in high-profile murder and kidnap investigations, escorting VIPs and specialised undercover work in a country where the hand of organised crime still looms large.
This work included guarding Raffaele ‘The Professor’ Cutolo – the notorious then-boss of the Nuova Camorra Organizzata – after he’d been taken into custody. Nico recalled the Mafia boss turning down the offer of a coffee because he “thought it could be poisoned”.
At the other end of the scale, he was assigned to protect Pope John Paul II as the pontiff enjoyed a well-earned holiday in the Italian mountains – a responsibility Nico described as “emotional” for the deep respect he had for the man.
Throughout his career in law enforcement, he built up the skills and character to operate in risky or volatile situations with a clear head – or “cold blood” as he terms it.
“It’s not about being calm or not calm, but you have received training so you can get ‘cold blood’’ if, for example, you start to get engagement with gun fire,” he said.
It was these characteristics – as well as his well-honed investigatory instinct – which made him a perfect fit for Tangiers’ focus on civilian contractors working in war zones or countries with severe developmental issues.
During one particular case, this experience allowed him to connect with a claimant who was severely traumatised following a horrific encounter in Afghanistan.
A team of private security guards had been attacked by the Taliban and every man had been killed – except one. The survivor, a US-national, had been flown to Thailand for treatment, but the event he had witnessed had left him in extreme emotional distress.
Holed up in his hotel room in Phuket and refusing help from Tangiers’ US agent, Nico flew down from Bangkok – where he now lives – to speak to the man himself.
He explained how talking about his own experiences enabled him to build a bond of trust with the man and, eventually, to resolve the resultant medical claim.
“I’m coming from a military background so they know that I understand them”, he said. “To be involved in a traumatic attack or come under gun fire.”
This work may not typically described as “easy” but for Nico it’s based on a skill-set he’s been working on his entire adult life.