Operation Playboy, true crime, bestseller by Kathryn Bonella

Jorge said risk was ‘like an orgasm’ for him. Picture: Federal Police Brazil
Surfer Jorge says risk is ‘like an orgasm’ for him. Source: Federal Police Brazil

Catching the world’s most reckless playboy drug runners.

THESE daring kingpins 

Party with models

live at 5-star hotels

And

Traffic drugs across the globe

Then came Operation Playboy

Police Chief Fernando Caieron was as fixated as the drug traffickers, but on catching them through ‘Operation Playboy’.
Police Chief Fernando Caieron was as fixated as the drug traffickers, but on catching them through ‘Operation Playboy’.Source:Supplied

THEY LOVE WOMEN, CLOTHES, FAST CARS AND FIRST CLASS TRAVEL

Australian author Kathryn Bonella — who wrote the books Hotel KerobokanSnowing in Bali and Schapelle Corby My Story — became aware of these wealthy, risk-addicted Brazilian drug lords when she met those who had paid the ultimate price: incarceration on Indonesia’s death row.

Surfer Rodrigo Gularte was busted smuggling cocaine to Bali in surfboards and executed alongside Bali Nine members Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. One of the organisers of Rodrigo’s run, surfer Timi, confessed to Bonella:

“I have blood on my hands.”

Timi had handed surfer drug trafficker Gularte the surfboards, loaded with cocaine, to carry to Bali only days after another member of the network was sentenced  death there.
“Timi was still living with dreadful guilt,” the author told news.com.au.
“But that did not stop him for a second from doing the next run.”

SMUGGLING COCAINE IN SURFBOARDS 

Bestseller Operation Playboy reveals in stark details how the playboys trafficked cocaine in surfboards.

BLOW BOARDS

The smuggled cocaine in surfboards. Picture: AP
Rodrigo Gularte and Marco Archer trafficked cocaine to Bali and were both executed. Rodrigo carried these “blow boards”.

WHY RISK IT?

These are smart, charismatic educated young men.

Most speak excellent English, have wealthy parents and some have even studied law.

They’re also thrill seekers, who love skiing and skydiving as they roam the globe — and for whom trafficking drugs is the ultimate adrenaline rush.

“They could do anything with their lives, but they choose this,” added Bonella.

“These guys love women, clothes, fast cars, travel. It’s a true life Point Break.”

PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH A FIRING SQUAD

“I think anyone can understand why they do it, the riches alone.”

“They spend $5, 000 transporting one kilo and make $500,000 AUD.”

“It gives them a lifestyle people dream of like jumping on a first-class flight on a whim and the rush of beating the authorities, getting the drugs across international borders.”

But even she can’t comprehend why anyone would take the risk of trafficking to Indonesia.

“It’s like playing Russian roulette with a firing squad and it’s hard to understand that gamble,” Bonella said.

Bonella’s book, Operation Playboy, follows an international manhunt to bring these surf-loving drug kingpins to justice.

BRAZILIAN FEDERAL POLICE’S OPERATION PLAYBOY

CHIEF FERNANDO CAIERON

Leading the charge was police chief Fernando Caieron, who was as fixated on tracking the narcos as they were on evading him.

He told Bonella: “When I saw the news [about Gularte’s arrest], I said, ‘motherf***er’ because there’s a lot places you could go and you decide to go to Indonesia where you’re going to be killed!”

“Those guys are psycho.”

Brazilians are the ideal traffickers, since they are keen travellers.

People from the poorer countries in South America, where cocaine comes from, trigger more suspicion at airports.

HORSES, NOT MULES

Drug mules — or the more senior “horses” — are constantly inventing new methods of smuggling their illicit cargo to stay a step ahead of the police, according to Bonella.

It’s vital to not look incongruous.

One skinny, tattooed young guy managed to evade the cops while smuggling drugs in a speaker.

But when he was given one of the “blow boards”, he was stopped because he didn’t look like a surfer.

The drug mules and ‘horses’ were constantly looking for new methods to transport the cocaine: on one occasion, rolled into a paraglider. Picture: Kathryn Bonella
The drug mules or ‘horses’ are constantly looking for new methods to transport the drugs. One method is inserting the drugs in the tubes of a paraglider kite. Picture: Kathryn Bonella (NB: men in photo are not traffickers)
Bonella says she doesn’t see this lucrative illegal industry stopping any time soon.
Bonella says she doesn’t see this lucrative illegal industry stopping any time soon. Source: Pan Macmillan Australia

Read all about it in this bestselling true crime book ‘Operation Playboy’

by Kathryn Bonella.

The syndicate would also reuse old smuggling methods once they stopped being “hot” and were focused on other methods.

GETTING BUSTED

When they did get caught, the playboys were often furious with themselves.

surfer drug traffickers

“There was this big, huge green gate — it went booooom,” Darcy Santos told Bonella after he was taken to prison in Portugal. He’d been caught at the airport thanks to an anonymous tip.

“I thought, ‘I’m here, I have been arrested, my life is over. I’m going down, I’m dead. See  — you asshole, you fucking prick — there you are, this is where you are ending up, fucking prison. Here you are, welcome to hell.’ ”

NO DETERRENT

But things look different from the outside. Most want to get out of jail and do it again, according to Bonella.

“I’ve interviewed a lot of drug traffickers in jail,” she said.

“They say, ‘I had an incredible life, I will go back to it. It’s the only way I can have that lifestyle.’

“Drug trafficking is such big business. They’re never going to stop it.”

Kathryn Bonella has gained unprecedented access to the world of cocaine trafficking. Picture: Kathryn Bonella
Kathryn Bonella has gained unprecedented access to the world of cocaine trafficking. Picture: Kathryn Bonella Source:Supplied

BOOK EXTRACT

“WE WERE sniffing and drinking champagne, and then this guy starts pissing me off.

“He wanted to get some blow, and so I put this bag in front of him and say ‘you want to sniff?’

No, I want to buy.’

No, I’m not selling drugs,” I say. ‘But you wanna sniff?

He says, ‘Yeah,’ so I take this nail, like a spoon, put a mountain of blow on it and put it under his nose.

So, you wanna have a line — now sniff, man?’, and he says, ‘Nooo, it’s too much.’

“We’re sitting at the table with all these girls watching this scene. So, I stand up and say: ‘You don’t want it … ffffffffff …’ and I blow — it’s snowing, snowing … I was literally blowing thousands of euros into the air.

“I get so crazy on champagne and blow, that I just start to put mounds of blow on this nail, and ffffffff … ‘Want to sniff, girls?’ I just enjoy the faces of the people looking, they have open mouths, like shock, then look at each other — ‘What is this f**king guy doing, this is not happening.’ Some people get down on the floor to try to get it … and I was so high that I was blowing ffffff 500 euros each time.”

GLAMOUR

This is the world of Brazilian international playboy drug traffickers, who stay at 5-star hotels, party with models and make millions of dollars from smuggling cocaine and ecstasy through major international airports.

Jorge is typical of these guys: good-looking, reads philosophy, speaks several languages and dresses in designer clothes. He doesn’t need to do this, but he thrives on it. “Risk is like an orgasm,” he said.

Buy Operation Playboy from publisher Pan Macmillan

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