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The Underworld Podcast
57 minutes | Oct 11, 2021
NY’s Chinatown Wars: Ghost Shadows, Hong Kong Triads, Tongs, and the China White Heroin Connection
When Nicky Louie stalked the streets in the 1970's, he was the first gangster to scare Chinatown in decades. At only 22-years-old, he led his gang of gun-toting teen hitmen known as the Ghost Shadows in countless shootouts against the Flying Dragons. Both street gangs were linked up with the established and secretive community groups known as Tongs that had been operating and controlling Chinatown since the 1890's. Together, the gangs and tongs ran the protection and gambling rackets, getting a piece of every single business in the neighborhood. But when the tongs linked up with Hong Kong Triads, who themselves had linked up with Burmese opium growers churning out the 95% pure heroin known as China White, things really got interesting.
52 minutes | Oct 7, 2021
BONUS PATREON EPISODE: Knives, Drugs, and Albanian Takeovers in London with Max Daly
Something a little different this week: No regular episode but we've decided to put the patreon bonus episode up for free. Max Daly, based in London, is the Global Drugs Editor for VICE. The Orwell Prize-winning investigative journalist has freelanced for The Guardian, BBC, Independent and other publications, and his 2013 book _Narcomania_ explored Britain’s booming drug scene. Sean spoke to Max about London’s drug and knife crime explosion, county lines—and how the government has failed to act—Albanian takeovers and something called ‘cuckooing.’
58 minutes | Sep 28, 2021
The Story of Sweden's Gang Crime Chaos: From Yugoslav Kingpins to Bombings, Rifles and Roadblocks
Sweden: ABBA, IKEA, third-wave coffee. A wealthy paradise? For some. For others, the Scandinavian state has become a homicide hotspot, with gun crime and grenade attacks on the rise. We tell the tales of its early Mafia kingpins - from bikers to the feared "Yugo Mafia", Arkan, Jokso and a spate of high-octane, helicopter bank heists. But when the Yugoslavs lost their grip on Sweden, they gave way to a new, chaotic and altogether more violent brand of gangsterism, that has enveloped low-income hoods in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö in shocking levels of violence - some of it played out in the music videos of rappers whose producers sit behind bars for murder. How did a rich, stable nation become the home of daylight drive-bys and revenge bombings?
57 minutes | Sep 21, 2021
Taliban Heroin Gang and the Failed War on Afghanistan's Opium
Over the last two decades, the Taliban have moved from simply taxing Afghanistan's opium farmers to controlling every link in the chain of the world's biggest heroin supply. In Afghanistan's Opium Nation, we took you through the history of Afghanistan's opium and heroin industry up until the American invasion in 2001. In this episode, we recap the last 20 years of failed efforts to curtail the country's drug trade, detailing how US allies ramped up their growing and trafficking efforts just as the Taliban were doing the same.
35 minutes | Sep 13, 2021
The Golden Age of Hijacking, Kidnapping and Radical Cold War Terror
Ulrike Meinhof is dead and the remaining founders of the Red Army Faction, aka the Baader Meinhof Gang, are behind bars in Stuttgart. Is this the end for Germany's most notorious hard-left terrorists? Those who pull the levers of power certainly hope so. But 250 miles north in Cologne, a second generation is gearing up for their most audacious kidnapping plot yet. And on a runway in Mallorca, some of the RAF's foreign comrades are about to spark an international incident that has the world hooked - and engages some of the gnarliest SWAT cops around. Featuring bombings, murders, bank robberies, a golden age of hijackings and the gunning down of the guy tasked with reviving East Germany's post-Cold War economy - part two of our Baader Meinhof double-header is a breathless account of the gang's spiraling out of control, and existence to a shockingly late date.
42 minutes | Sep 6, 2021
Afghanistan's Opium Nation: Drug Lords, Warlords, and Drug Wars
For decades, starting a few years even before the Taliban took power the first time around, Afghanistan has dominated the world’s opium and heroin market, in some years producing up to 90% of the global supply. It’s also provided hundreds of millions of all dollars for all sorts of less than desirable entities. Warlords, Druglords, insurgents, rebels, US allies, US enemies and yes, the Taliban. There’s a couple of wild characters who pretty much have been each one of those things at one point or another in their careers. Then there’s the Pakistani and Iranian and Tajik smuggler networks that help get it across borders, the various criminal syndicates in Turkey, the Balkan, Russian, Kurdish and Central Asian traffickers who help get it across more borders all the way to the street crews in London, Scandinavia and everywhere else. All have fed off of the opium poppy planted in Afghanistan. So have the millions of heroin addicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran...and all over Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Russia.
40 minutes | Aug 31, 2021
The Baader Meinhof Gang's 'Revolution' of Murders, Bank Robberies, & Blowing Themselves Up
The Baader Meinhof Gang, or Red Army Faction, came about as post-war Germany sought to rebuild from the death and destruction of the Nazi era. As the Cold War gripped the world and self-declared revolutionary groups rose up, the gang's reign of violence across Germany in the 1970's brought international infamy. Bank Robberies, prison breaks, and the Shah of Iran, what else do you need in a story?
44 minutes | Aug 24, 2021
DM'ing Dominican Narcos, The Shooting of David Ortiz, & Cesar The Abuser
The Dominican Republic has long been a transshipment for cocaine heading to the United States and Europe. In recent years Dominican traffickers have started playing major roles in the supply chain. Corruption has flourished as local 'capos' have grown more powerful. All of this came to head when iconic and world famous baseball player David Ortiz was gunned down in a crowded bar in the summer of 2019. A week after the shooting, Sport Illustrated sent us down there to figure out what happened, opening up a door of cocaine, corruption, and the island's most powerful drug lord, Cesar The Abuser.
37 minutes | Aug 17, 2021
The Murdered Crime Reporter & the Mocro Mafia, Holland's Underworld Kings
On July 6, legendary Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries was shot in broad daylight on an Amsterdam street. A week later he was dead - another casualty of the sprawling Marengo Trial that could snare the Netherland’s biggest druglord - and bring the decades-old Mocro Mafia down with him. We get to the heart of the shooting, the history of the hash trade, ports, planes and cocaine - and why even one of Holland’s top cops admits his country is Europe’s ‘narco-state’.
41 minutes | Aug 10, 2021
Syria's Narco State, Jihadi Supersoldiers and Hezbollah Traffickers: The Story of Captagon
Multiple billion dollar shipments of the drug known as Captagon have been seized in the last few years as the cheap amphetamine floods the Middle East. Alleged to have helped fund the Syrian Civil war, the tiny pills have been showing up in numerous massive shipments confiscated in Mediterranean port cities, often sent by shadowy, high level networks. The pills are all almost exclusively made in Syria, and they're very likely the Assad regime's most valuable export. But what, exactly, is Captagon, who is doing it, and where did it come from?
50 minutes | Aug 3, 2021
Inside North Korea's Meth Trafficking: The World's Biggest Narco State?
When a bizarre group of international gangsters shook on a massive meth deal with a DEA agent in Bangkok, Thailand eight years ago, it kicked off a manhunt ensnaring Hong Kong Triads, Outlaws bikers and an ex-US Army sniper’s band of contract killers. But the bust also shone a light on the shady drug network of North Korea, part of a crime machine fuelling the world’s maddest dictatorship. This is the story of how a war-torn Hermit Kingdom became a narco-trafficking, cash-counterfeiting, pimping Mafia state.
59 minutes | Jul 27, 2021
The Cuban Mob: Billion Dollar Rackets, the CIA, Lucchese Mafia Firebomb Wars, Miami Cocaine Trafficking and Fidel Castro
Jose Miguel Battle's Cuban Mafia known as The Corporation ran a billion dollar numbers racket with brutal enforcers for three decades, growing so powerful that they went to war with the Luccheses, firebombing each other's spots all over New York City. This episode has got failed assassination plots, CIA Training, Fidel Castro, Harlem arson wars, cockfighting, billion dollar numbers rackets, ruthless hitmen with dozens of bodies, broad day shootouts in Central Park, Peruvian casinos and Miami cocaine trafficking, what more could you want?
63 minutes | Jul 20, 2021
The Untold Story of El Chapo's Rise and Fall w/ special guest Noah Hurowitz
(Apologies for sound issues on this one) Before he was Public Enemy Number One—shipping tons of cocaine from Sonoran tunnels into the US—El Chapo was just a poor kid from Sinaloa, trying to make a quick buck like the bandits who'd gone before him. Reporter Noah Hurowitz has been on the trail of the narco kingpin for three years since his bombshell New York trial. He tells us about his new book, travels in Mexico's original Cartel-Land - and how it's not always easy (or safe) to prise fact from fiction when it comes to one of the planet's most notorious criminals. (Part 2 will be up exclusively on the patreon on Wednesday for subscribers at www.patreon.com/theunderworldpodcast).
39 minutes | Jul 12, 2021
The Icelandic Drug-Smuggling Fellowship's Massive Bitcoin Heist
How did an Icelandic band of international drug smugglers pull off their nation’s most shocking heist, robbing millions in Bitcoin mining machines then disappearing into the frozen wilderness? And how did its mastermind (some say: pawn) escape from jail, hop across Europe only to be hobbled by the exact network he’d relied on as a free man? Iceland’s ‘Big Bitcoin Heist’ is a tale of boom and bust, opportunity and clownish failure. Above all it’s a great story. Does anyone know the correct pronunciation of the word "Geyser"?!?!?
42 minutes | Jul 6, 2021
Cartel Land: How Acapulco went from Sinatra Singing to Sicarios Shooting
Acapulco has become one of Mexico's, and the world's, bloodiest cities. It saw a stunning 127 murders per 100,000 people in 2019, making it the most murderous city in the world. It's a long way from it's previous reputation as the premier vacation destination for the rich and famous with everyone from JFK to Frank Sinatra to Liz Taylor singing it's praises. So how did a tropical paradise go from spring break hotspot to shootouts and severed heads?
50 minutes | Jun 29, 2021
The Snakehead Sister Ping: China's Most Infamous Smuggler
She was the greatest smuggler, a Chinatown hero. Or was she a menace? Sister Ping made millions from those fleeing eastern China to the US. But ‘The Snakehead’s legacy is wound up in legend, conspiracy and lies. Here’s the truth.
54 minutes | Jun 23, 2021
The Pink Panthers: The Secretive Organization of the World's Top Jewel Thieves
Emerging out of the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Balkans-based international thieves known as the Pink Panthers have coordinated many of the world's most lucrative heists, sometimes stealing tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds and jewels in less than 3 minutes. Said to be disciplined, cultured and meticulously organized, they've struck in dozens of countries, often times targeting prestigious jewelry shops in daring smash-and-grabs, including an infamous Dubai robbery that involved driving an Audi through a mall. But, what, exactly, do we know about them? And who are the men that make up this secretive organization?
42 minutes | Jun 16, 2021
The Russian Mafia's NHL Extortion Play
When the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 80's and early 90's, both gangsters and hockey players headed to America (and Canada!) for new opportunities, making use of the skills they had developed back home. It didn't take long before both groups were on a collision course. As a bunch of 20-something Russian and Ukrainian players started earning more money than they had ever dreamed of, some of their equally ambition countrymen wanted to make sure they got a taste as well.
48 minutes | Jun 9, 2021
Turkey's Mafia Boss Youtube Sensation Trying to Bring Down the State
Sedat Peker has long been a top mafia boss in Turkey, but in recent weeks he's found a new calling: Youtuber. He's taken to youtube and social media to air out accusations of corruption and conspiracies that go all the way to the top of Turkish politics, including the current president. After a gentlemen's agreement with the government went south and many of his soldiers got arrested, he fled to Dubai where's he been releasing youtube videos that have been watched by tens of millions of people in Turkey, revealing political murders, corruption, and drug trafficking charges against top government officials.
37 minutes | Jun 2, 2021
The Billion Dollar Dealer Who Linked Hell's Angels, Mafia Families, Cartels, and Native American Smugglers
Jimmy Cournoyer brought a billion dollars of weed into New York City and the east coast through an organization that brought together the Rizzuto and Bonnano Italian Mafia families, Native American Smugglers, Hell's Angels, and the Sinaloa Cartel into one massive money-laundering, weed-smuggling, cocaine-distributing organization. And he did it all before he was 30 years old while dating a lingerie model, being besties with top MMA star George St. Pierre, and partying with Leonardo Dicaprio. With a lovely tangential story about the time Danny made a documentary about the owner of a butcher shop who ended up being Mikey "The Butcher" Virtuouso, Bonnano crime family soldier and maker of the best sandwiches in New York City.
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