News: Japanese Manga comic takes on ‘Outlaws Inc.’

 

This knocked me for six: news that Japanese magazine Courrier Japon has just adapted Outlaws Inc. to Manga comic strip form.

 

The adaptation published this month, is true to the book’s narrative and journalism – but supercharges it with some fantastic graphic novel-style visual storytelling. I love the portrayal of Mickey. Though the real Mickey was more beat-looking than that, I hope he’d have approved. Here’s a sample page.

 

News: Outlaws Inc published in Finland this week

 

This week saw the publication of Salainen Lasti in Finland. The Finnish-language version of Outlaws Inc means ‘Secret Cargo’, and weighs in at 477 pages, including new material on the conviction in Manhattan of ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout, and a whole chapter drawn from the secret DEA tapes of his sting and arrest in Bangkok.

 

Translated by prizewinning Finnish poet and author Jyrki Kiiskinen, Salainen Lasti is the fourth foreign-language edition of the book, now published in more than 25 countries around the world.

Free-Market Mercenaries: Matt speaking at Swansea University on 28th February

Matt will be talking transnational crime, Russian gunrunners and the deadly compromises between narco-mafias, FTSE 100 businesses, terrorists, ‘big aid’ and our own government at Swansea University on 28th February.

The event, titled ‘Free market mercenaries: Cocaine traffickers, Somali pirates, and how the Soviet Union won the Cold War’ is organised by Swansea University’s Research Institute in association with the History Faculty, and will start at 5.30pm in Fulton House on the main campus.

The topic is one the recent conviction of Russian businessman Viktor ‘Merchant of Death’ Bout has brought to global attention. Across the world, a secretive network of lawless, untraceable ex-Red Army airmen function as the delivery channel for everything from Afghan heroin and illicit guns to pirate ransoms, UN aid and supermarket flowers. They are living testament to what happened when the Soviet army met Western outsourcing, free-market economics and foreign policy. Matt has flown and worked with these fugitive airmen, and his adventures and investigations are revealed in the book Outlaws Inc, published globally last year and reissued this year in a new, updated edition featuring extra material on Britain’s part in what UN investigators call the “shadow network of illicit arms transfers” and transcripts of the secret tapes from the CIA’s wire during their sting operation on Viktor Bout.

In his talk, will be asking what their industry means for our self-image as citizens of an enlightened, post-Soviet world. Matt is speaking at the invitation of Dr Kelly Hignett, Lecturer in the School of History and Classics at Swansea University, specialist in crime and deviancy in the former Eastern Bloc and author of ‘Transnational Organised Crime and the Global Village’. Dr Hignett is also the woman behind the highly regarded blog The View East.

For a free invitation to the event as Matt’s guest, or if you’d like Matt to speak at an event, just email matt [at] mattpotterbooks [dot] com, or tweet me @MattPotter.

 

Full press information, interview requests, serialization or review copies of the new, expanded edition of his acclaimed book Outlaws Inc., are available from Dusty Miller, Director of Publicity at Pan Macmillan in London. Email: D.Miller@macmillan.co.uk; Telephone: (+44) 20 7014 6188.

 

 

 

 

News: Outlaws Inc. published in a new edition… complete with secret CIA tapes

 

An updated, expanded edition of Outlaws Inc. is published in paperback by Pan Macmillan in March.

 

The new edition contains explosive new material – including full coverage of the recent high-profile trial of the infamous Merchant of Death in Manhattan, and never-before-published material from the CIA’s secret files on the infamous gunrunner, real name Viktor Bout. Also included are the secretly taped conversations that lead to his capture in Bangkok, and more revelations from the frontline of the arms trafficking pipeline to South America’s cocaine mafias.

 

 

If the new material is explosive, so is the new cover. It features a selection of the rave reviews for the book from the likes of the BBC’s John Sweeney (in the Literary Review), and Andy Ross of America Today, who compared the action to “James Bond meets Jason Bourne”.

 

Outlaws Inc. was published in its first edition in June 2010, and picked up acclaim from the Washington Post, BBC, Fox News and CNN, among others. Matt is currently writing the follow-up, to be published in 2013.

Video: “Cocaine coffee tables?!” CNN bosses, the craziest cop in Brazil, and me

 

It started perfectly innocently. I was out with a friend on Thursday, and the phone rang. I didn’t pick up – it was ten o’clock, and I’d worked my way through six large glasses of what I remember being an increasingly smooth Italian red, and a couple of bottles of Grolsch for good measure. I’m not a big drinker, and it’s not my usual style, but this guy was over from Sierra Leone, he’s an old friend, and, and… and it explains why I didn’t pick up.

It was a New York number.

The second time it rang, less than a minute later, I picked up. It was CNN. Could I make it to their London office? They had some story kick off with Brazilian smugglers in a plane, they’d been brought down by a cop using only his cujones and a Toyota corolla, and could I comment?

Not a chance. I’m a little tipsy. No way. Nope. Find someone else, someone who isn’t afraid, I mean really afraid, of making a lemon of himself on a prime-time network news show. I gave them my final ‘No’. Put the phone down. That was a close call.

 

 

Well, here’s the interview. I guess they got more than they bargained for, and the show’s bosses sent out a tweet within the hour hashtagged #justtobeclear, clarifying that they do not condone the use, possession, sale, purchase or production of “coffee tables made of cocaine”.

 

 

What can I say? They’re persuasive people.

 

Review download: ‘Outlaws Inc.’ launches in Germany, gets full-page rave in The Literary Review!

Thanks to Britain’s leading literary magazine, The Literary Review, for their full-page write-up on Outlaws Inc. this month, by veteran BBC man John Sweeney. You can read the review by clicking on the scan above to enlarge – but suffice to say, I’m framing it and the cover. Coming on the heels of the Washington Post‘s “Fascinating… great writing” and the Seattle Times piece, this has been a great month for the book. My heartfelt thanks to all concerned.

 

Meanwhile, Outlaws Inc. launched under its German title Tödliche Fracht (‘Deadly Cargo’) in Germany, with a party at Ullstein Verlag’s HQ on Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse. Radio interviews in German with ARD and RTL as well as press interviews with newspapers from Kiel to Cologne and Potsdam to Münster saw it off. I’ll be posting some of the features and interviews, in German, in the very near future.

Report: Smuggling, security & the power of cheap – speaking at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs

On 22nd September, I was honoured to be invited to discuss the links between big business, mercenary airmen and terrorist groups at a special event presented by the Transnational Security Committee of NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. The conversation that followed, moderated by CGA Academic Chair Dr Mark Galeotti, took in the disintegrating Soviet Union, the forces and motives directing policy in Afghanistan, Central America and increasingly, East Africa.

 

The high point for me personally was Dr Galeotti’s killer question – one I haven’t been asked before, and when I think about it, I wish I had, because it’s an incredibly fertile way to look at how our world works. He posited a hypothetical set of conditions where it was possible to shut down all rogue air operators and stem the flow of invisible cargo overnight. He then asked, what would our world look like then?

Well, war would get bigger again, for a start. Not just in the sense that smaller groups would find it harder to access plentiful weapons without a superpower ‘backer’ – much as they did in Cold War days – but in that moves like invasions, regime change and reconstruction would come with a far higher tax bill attached, since the grunt work could no longer be outsourced to cost-effective partners-for-hire, but would demand the presence of a far larger standing force.Prices for other things would rise, too. Not just contraband – though the plentiful supply of cheap movers helps keep prices artificially low there too – but everything from bouquets to chickenburgers and parcel post to washing machines.

 

Humanitarian aid, too, would come with a heftier bill attached – again, it would require bodies like the UN to run a far larger standing transport resource – and would be slower in its deployment, since the perma-circling flocks of cheap Russian cargo planes operating in and around the world’s troublespots would have disappeared. Smaller aid outfits would likely be squeezed out of the emergency-response market, since they would not have access to cheap capacity in planes that were already going to Somalia, Pakistan or Haiti, and could neither afford to charter nor run their own plane.

 

No wonder the Q&A with the audience was described as “spirited”! You can read more about the event, and the CGA’s upcoming lecture programme, here.

Extract: Colombia, cocaine and the coastal paradise on a US blacklist

Today, the US finally blacklisted Belize and El Salvador for being major narcotics transhipment hubs – mainly for Colombian cocaine. Anyone who’s been to the former British Honduras, a tiny little country on the Central American coastline, will already know very well how much of it goes down there. Indeed, most are probably wondering, like me, what took the US so long.

For those who don’t – and for everyone interested in the cocaine trade – I’ve decided to post a free extract of my book below, in which I witnessed the workings of the Belize cocaine transhipment trade at close quarters. Read it and weep…

– From the chapter
High Times on the Costa Coca

“It’s just the start of another lazy, sun-kissed day on Ambergris, one of the tiny, sandspit-and-swamp cayes—pronounced keys, like the Florida archipelago they resemble—off the mainland of this Mayan-Caribbean state. Belize is a tiny coastal country nestled between Guatemala and Mexico on the Central American coastline. Accordingly, the former British Honduras is part coastal paradise, part Mayan hill-and-jungle backwater, and projects the kind of quaint, slow-paced charm we all remember from childhood visits to elderly aunts by the seaside. The waters this side of a long coastal reef glow bright blue, and farther out, where the peasant fishermen ply their trade and the occasional launch zips by on its way up the Central American seaboard toward Florida, they are calm and reassuringly hushed. It genuinely is the last place I’d ever expected, quite literally, to fall over the slit and dissolving remains of a twelve-kilo sack of uncut cocaine someone had left lying on the sandspit beach of the long caye during a dawn walk.

If I’d been able to read the local papers for the couple of months before my arrival in March 2003, I might have had an inkling. On a cloudy Wednesday morning in February 2003, Belizean drug-enforcement agents on a tip-off stormed a field on the Mexico-Belize border and stumbled upon a still-smoldering torched aircraft. But if that was genuinely their first clue that all was not entirely as it should be on the sunny shores of this tiny Central American paradise, perhaps it shouldn’t have been. For years, fishermen and farmers up and down the Mosquito Coast have been doubling up as cocaine salvage men, pushing out early in the morning to see what they can rescue from the fields and waters of Belize and neighboring countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Locals here earn a matter of pennies a day—yet a handful or those industrious or well-informed enough have long been living a Central American rewrite of Whisky Galore (Compton Mackenzie’s book and subsequent film about a small Scottish island community onto whose beach fifty thousand cases of scotch from a wrecked World War II cargo vessel are washed). Only here, the flotsam comes in the form of shrink-wrapped bales of 100 percent pure cocaine, not bottles of booze.

On a sandy, shark-encircled caye a few kilometers along the Costa Coca just weeks later, I was a passenger on a local fishing boat whose skipper explained to me as he sped right past his fishing waters and into the deeper ocean that it was always worth his while scouting around for the “taped-up plastic sacks of cocaine that the narcotraficantes drop into the water at night.” Sometimes, he explains, the narcos whose job it is to deliver the drugs to the planes come round the coast at night and attempt to rendezvous with the plane’s crew. If they are disturbed, chased by law enforcement, or just paranoid, the easiest thing for them to do is push the cargo over the side, carefully wrapped so that it floats discreetly, in the hope of doubling back and retrieving it when the danger has passed—the big-money equivalent of throwing your joint from the car window. The air trapped in the sacks makes them float, semi-submerged or just below the surface, glinting as the light bounces off the plastic. Often they do return and retrieve their cargo, but there are often stragglers, bales washed away from the rest. These are, says the skipper, “the bales the fishing boats find, mostly. Sometimes from a plane too, though, I think.”

By now it was late morning and my skipper and I were no longer alone: A handful of small dinghies could be seen combing the reef waters and the deeper sea beyond, packed with fishermen hoping to land their own twelve-kilo, plastic-wrapped golden ticket. Up and down the beach, meanwhile, were the sacks that hadn’t made it—punctured on impact with the ground, swept out, torn, and washed up again, their precious contents either a dissolving bubbly residue or gone forever.

Back on land, the caye is awash with the stuff, young teenagers selling cocaine—or a hurriedly home-cut version of what the boats or 4x4s brought in—for as little as ten dollars a gram on jetties, beach bars, and up and down the sand in a way you’d normally be offered cheap souvenir beach towels or hair braids. One can’t help but notice how, among the rows of hovels, rusting pickups, and wooden boats, the occasional spanking-new, tinted-glass Humvee sits incongruously; or the odd rococo home extension with pool among a cluster of poor-but-proud shacks at the end of a dirt road. This is just one of the bizarre local economic glitches—along with a series of microbooms to the cash economy whenever a shipment falls—that attends this particular delivery method to the local arms-for-drugs traders.

The idea of spiriting large quantities of Colombian-grown drugs out of rural Belize by cargo plane is not new. In July 2000, British paratrooper Ken Lukowiak wrote a best-selling account of a successful marijuana-smuggling operation he masterminded from his British garrison in Belize in 1983, using military-transport aircraft to spirit large quantities of grass to Europe. Successful until he was caught by the army and jailed, that is.

Yet the Belizean police do seem incredibly unlucky to keep narrowly missing an arrest despite the tip-offs they receive from local witnesses. Just months later in August 2003, enforcement authorities in Blue Creek, a mile and a half from Quintana Roo, Mexico, arrived just too late once more and found another ditched Antonov. This time the gun was smoking: On landing, the An-12’s wheels had become stuck in the thick mud of the field, crippling it. Just like the Candid team who left their junk plane to rust in Afghanistan after having dropped their generator for the U.S. military, this crew knew what to do. The plane itself had cost just $1.5 million; it was expendable. The cargo wasn’t. Witnesses reported seeing men arrive at the plane by car, pick up the crew and a suspected ten bales of cocaine, and speed off in the direction of the Mexican border . . . where they vanished forever.”

Free audio download: Matt talks 9/11’s unreported aftermath on the Rick & Donna Martinez Show

Listen to Matt on WPTF with Rick and Donna Martinez:
Matt’s guest appearance on WPTF’s Rick and Donna Martinez show yesterday kicked off the show’s coverage of some of the more unheralded players in 9/11 and its global aftermath. Matt and Donna discussed the dirty deals our governments make with phantom carriers – in Iraq, Afghanistan, and closer to home. You can download the show as an iTunes-ready Mp3 here.

Comment: “A chilling indictment of worldwide regulatory failure” – or, the book beneath the book

Five newspapers in the UK have given a unanimous four-star thumbs-up to Outlaws Inc. – and with some hearteningly perceptive reviews that took me a little by surprise. The Liverpool Echo, Edinburgh Evening News and Yorkshire Post among others, and especially this review (below), from the Manchester Evening News, hit the nail on the head in a way that a lot of the gung-ho stuff misses.

Because for all the adventure, the anecdote and the fist-person element, I suppose I think what I might have ended up writing, without trying to really, was a book about what happens when governments take their hands off the wheel.

I trace the journey of Mickey and the rest of the now-stateless ‘outlaws’ whose country – along with all its certainties and the future it offered them – was snatched away by economic crisis. But somewhere deep down I know, as does the guy from the MEN – that it’s also a book about everything that’s happening now, to us. Read the review below, read the first chapter for free here, and let me know what you think.