Celebrated true-crime writer and journalist Kathryn Bonella has travelled the world to collect first-person testimony from an international network of mules and their bosses, as well as from the elite cops who are hot on their trail. Kathryn now tells us about her latest book Operation Playboy.
Kathryn Bonella writes…
I watched the playboy pacing across the hotel room. He was nervous, jittery. He’d been unsure whether to talk on the record about his drug trafficking. But something was pushing him – maybe guilt; a cathartic need to talk. Suddenly, ignoring the digital recorder on the corner of the bed, he blurted; “I feel like I have Rodrigo’s blood on my hands … I give to his hands those boards – that’s the last time I saw him when I gave those boards to him.” He was still jittery, still talking, as the enormity of what he’d just said hit me. It was a confession. Rodrigo Gularte had been executed, alongside the two Australians, in Indonesia for trying to take those surfboards filled with cocaine from Brazil to Bali. It’s moments like these that make being a journalist a very fascinating job.
My new book ‘Operation Playboy’ came to life after hundreds of interviews with a bunch of playboys, mostly surfers, who smuggle cocaine from Brazil to Europe or Bali to pay for their hedonistic lifestyle. It’s a real-life Point Break. They surf in Bali, ski in Switzerland and shop for designer clothes in Paris. Home is whichever five-star they lay their Luis Vuitton Luggage; hookers and models are part of life; blow is always on the table.
“It was a confession. Rodrigo Gularte had been executed, alongside the two Australians.”
But it’s more than just the big cash and extravagance that drug trafficking affords them. It’s about the rush; these playboys are adrenalin junkies who love slamming down a monster wave, or hang gliding off cliff tops. Trafficking drugs soon becomes their ultimate fix. They are surfers turned drug lords who are playing Russian roulette with a firing squad. Two of those I interviewed have since been executed. Their death sentences didn’t stop their friends … who, seeing them busted and on death row, didn’t pause for reflection, just briefly for safety. To ride the wave is to roll the dice. Operation Playboy tells both sides of this story … a sexy Brazilian Federal cop, Chief Fernando Caieron, has as much passion to catch these playboys as they do to outrun him.
“It’s crazy to get killed for this… I mean, it’s insane, insane. Those guys are psycho, psycho.”
Having a box seat on both sides was exhilarating. I did interviews across Brazil, Europe and Bali, and both sides knew I was talking to the other, which sometimes caused them stress. When the playboys were giving me confessions, they worried that it could do them in. I promised to change some names, but nothing else.
In taking the risk to talk and tell these intimate and intricate stories the playboys provide a colorful picture of what motivates them to dance on the precipice and live on the edge of risk. They’re not cliché gangsters; most speak several languages, are good looking, well educated, polite, from wealthy upper middle-class families and very charismatic; they could do anything with their lives. But they choose to traffic drugs. Their stories of the glamour, the busts, the thrill, gives a penetrating insight into why and how they do what they do. The cop, Fernando Caieron has his own view: “It’s crazy to get killed for this… I mean, it’s insane, insane. Those guys are psycho, psycho.”
Thank you Kathryn!
Sex. Drugs. Danger. Death.
This is the adrenaline-pumping story of the world's most audacious drug runners and the police hunt, 'Operation Playboy', to track them down.
Celebrated true-crime writer and journalist Kathryn Bonella has travelled the world to collect first-person testimony from an international network of mules and their bosses, as well as from the elite cops who are hot on their trail.