The Mastermind

The Hunt for the World’s Most Prolific Criminal

by Evan Ratliff

463 pages, ★★★★★
Finished on 13th of February, buy here.

A truly captivating story about real-life James Bond villain Paul Le Roux. The author Evan Ratliff is a WIRED Magazine journalist who has followed and researched Le Roux since at least 2008. Paul Le Roux is a white Zimbabwean who in his early years was a genius programmer and contributed to the public cryptographic libraries which were not even crackable by the NSA. A bunch of setbacks seemingly made him seek vengeance, and as his criminal energy surged, he amassed a fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars by selling and shipping non-controlled painkillers within the US, all from his laptop while living in Manila, Philippines. It was a legal grey area and it worked well.

Over the years, his endeavors moved more towards clearly illegal activities. He had between 1,000 and 2,000 people working for him in many different fields. Importing North Korean methamphetamines via Hong Kong and shipping it to Colombia for their Cocaine which he then distributed in South East Asia, for example. Building a private army in Somalia in order to work with the pirates, buying gold and diamonds in Ghana for money-laundering reasons. Safe houses all over the world. And, of course, lots of violence in the form of planned murders carried out by his paid “security team”, i.e. hitmen. It was tough to put the book down. When he finally got caught by the DEA in 2012, he even then managed to play everyone and recently got just 20 years in prison. The whole law enforcement side of the story makes you really lose trust in the system, which is utterly unable to stop a modern version of Pablo Escobar effectively.

In addition to being a incredible book-worthy story, it is also written really well. I can’t think of anything that’s missing. One of the most interesting books about the dark sides of humanity I know.

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