A methodical history of a pioneer of cybercrime who founded an international empire based on the sales of drugs, armaments, and technology and on the currency of fear and murder.
It’s unfortunate that Shannon’s (Desperados: Latin Drug Lords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can’t Win, 1988, etc.) account of the criminal genius Paul Le Roux appears in the same season as Evan Ratliff’s Mastermind, which covers just the same ground and is the more vigorously written of the two. Still, Shannon opens on a smart note given current events: She contrasts the old-school criminal empire of Joaquin Guzmán, aka “El Chapo,” with the new one of Le Roux, who “has introduced the principles of twenty-first century entrepreneurship to the dark side of the global economy”—and, in the process, “is changing everything.” Transnational in nature—for Le Roux was born in what was then Rhodesia and has lived, it seems, just about everywhere since—the postmodern, postindustrial criminal empire Le Roux founded resisted law enforcement simply by not having a country of its own: a murder in Manila here, a drug deal in Hong Kong or Pyongyang there, bank transfers in Dubai and London and Jerusalem there, and it all made it difficult to keep tabs on. Le Roux’s model wasn’t one of loyal Mafia foot soldiers but of disposable—literally—contractors, whether renegade bikers or well-trained mercenaries or mild-mannered accountants. Shannon is very good on procedural matters and especially on how the American Drug Enforcement Administration pieced together its multiagency, multigovernmental case against Le Roux. Among her sources are undercover DEA agents and informants, including one who “posed as a Colombian cartel representative in order to bring Le Roux to justice.” That story is fascinating, especially as government agents figure out how to lure their target—or, failing that, arrange for him to be dispatched in some distant place, even if “U.S. military and NATO rules of engagement forbade summary executions of noncombatants." For sizzle, then, one wants to read Ratliff’s book first, but there’s plenty of steak here.
A painstaking, fascinating account of crime and punishment.