tells the incredible true story of Paul Le Roux, the frighteningly powerful creator of a 21st Century cartel, and the decade-long global manhunt that finally brought his empire to its knees.
Le Roux was born on December 24, 1972 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and given up for adoption. His birth certificate gives his first name as "unknown" and makes no mention of his father. His biological mother's identity has never been disclosed. Aged two months, he was adopted by a couple living in the asbestos-mining town of Mashava and given his future name, Paul Calder Le Roux. His parents never told him about his adoption, although various family members would learn of it over the years, and Le Roux himself would only find out in 2002. Following the political events of 1980, with Robert Mugabe assuming power and ending white minority rule, the family relocated to South Africa in 1984 for better schooling opportunities for Paul. They found a new home in the mining town of Krugersdorp, where Le Roux's father started a company managing coal-mining operations, soon bringing wealth to the family. Upon returning from a family holiday trip to the US, 17 year-old Le Roux decided to leave South Africa and departed to the UK eight months later where he found work as a programmer.
From its origins as a prescription drug network, supplying hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of painkillers to online customers, Le Roux’s business evolved into a sprawling multi-national conglomerate engaged in almost every conceivable aspect of criminal mayhem. Yachts carrying $100 million in cocaine. Safe houses in Hong Kong filled with gold bars. Shipments of methamphetamine from North Korea. Weapons deals with Iran. Mercenary armies in Somalia. Teams of hitmen in the Philippines. All tied together with encryption programs so advanced that government agencies could not break them. Tracing Le Roux’s vast wealth and his shadowy henchmen around the world, award-winning journalist Evan Ratliff spent four years piecing together this intricate network. His investigation reveals a tale of ambition and greed, and exposes a new age of international crime in which a reclusive entrepreneur can thrive, combining the ruthlessness of a drug lord with the technological capabilities of a Silicon Valley firm to build an empire in the shadows of our networked world.
The result is a riveting, unprecedented account of the most prolific crime boss built by and for the digital age.
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