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Fm/plus. I'm Miles Johnson, and I'm an investigative journalist with the Financial Times. The story I'm going to tell you, it's not a love story, but it starts with a wedding. It's a wedding that takes place in Dubai in 2017. It's a hot summer's day at the Burj Al Arab, one of the most expensive hotels in the world. It's a skyscraper shaped like the sale of a ship, rising up from the glittering water of the Gulf. Guests can arrive across a private bridge in the hotel's fleet of Rolls-Royce phantoms or flying landing on the helipad on the roof. The wedding party that day has been told to keep things discreet, no photos, and no social media. Security is tight. The groom is a young Irish entrepreneur, and some of his most important business partners have come to celebrate his big day. But these aren't your average businessman. Some of them hang priceless stolen masterpieces on their walls. They've got multiple passports with multiple identities, and they can order the assassination of almost anyone anywhere in the world. Because this isn't just a wedding. This is an international crime summit. It's a meeting of what will come to be known as the Dubai Super Cartel, a shadowy criminal network that controls a multibillion-dollar cocaine empire spanning the globe.


Over the years, I've written about a lot of different things. But more recently, you could perhaps describe my beat as the places where crime and business collide. I've written about Russian billionaires who control private mercenary armies and the Italian mafia laundering their cash through the City of London. I've covered Vatican financial scandals and spy rings that smuggle microchips. Because crime is a business and modern organized crime groups, they're increasingly run like multinational companies. They have thousands of employees, complicated logistical supply chains, and even investment portfolios. It's a big economic story, but you don't usually read about it in the business pages. Because reporting on international crime groups in the same way we'd report on a blue chip corporation, well, it's hard. Crime bosses, they don't usually have PR teams you can ring up, and mafias, they don't publish audited accounts or glossy annual reports. But the money generated by organized crime is vast, and most of the time it's invisible. It's like this ocean of shadow cash. We know it's there, but we can't ever really see it. It's trillions of dollars, and it fuels things like weapons trafficking and war. It can even topple governments.


The men celebrating at that wedding in Dubai, they've come up with a new model of organized crime. It's become so successful that by 2017, police believed that they control a third of Europe's cocaine market worth billions of dollars a year. When I first came across the Dubai Super Cartel, it seemed like something from a film, something almost ridiculous like Specta from James Bond. I needed to find out more, so I started talking to people. I met with sources in law enforcement, undercover agents, spies. I got hold of legal documents and investigative dossiers. Then Is it? I realized this isn't just a story about crime. This is a story about a secret economic war. It's a story about who gets to control how money moves around the world and whether Western governments can keep hold of that power as the rules based international order breaks apart. Because I discovered that the Dubai super cartel, they're not just hiding from governments, they're working alongside them. But my first clue to understanding how this group of criminals became so rich and so powerful, it took me somewhere that's a million miles away from the bling of a Dubai wedding.


Because one day I was speaking to a source and they told me something I just really wasn't expecting. They said, If you really want to understand how all of this works, you have to go and look at a murder in a small town in the Netherlands. This is Hot Money season two, the new Narcos. Episode one, Murderbrokers.


One of the good things about being a crime reporter is that you talk to everyone who wants to talk to you, very different people. I like to do that. This is.


Paul, Paul Vux. He's a reporter in Amsterdam, and for more than 20 years, he's been working the local crime beat for HET Parole, a daily city newspaper. Paul wears black T-shirts and a leather jacket and has a gold hoop in one ear. He's old school. He's not posting hot takes on social media. When I first met Paul, it didn't take long before he showed me his bike. He rides it everywhere down Cobblestone streets and squares and along beautiful canals, going to coffee shops and bars to meet his sauces. But if that sounds a bit quaint, there's a far seedier side to Amsterdam that keeps a crime reporter like Paul pretty busy. Because Amsterdam is famous for its beauty, but it's also well-known for its red light district, its relaxed drug laws, and a vibrant criminal underground. That means Paul always has plenty to write about. Like all good crime reporters, Paul works his beat. He speaks to everyone. He talks to police officers, lawyers, the local prosecutor's office. But Paul is also always cultivating his underwater sources.


I try to build my network step by step because as you might know, as a crime journalist, your colleague cannot give you his or her network. That's not possible.


He learns early on that criminals, while they care about journalistic standards too. A notorious underwater figure reaches out to Paul about a mistake he thought he'd made in one of his articles because he wanted to set the record straight.


But the first time, of course, I thought where to meet, how to meet, how to keep it safe. I learned quite fast that some public space as a coffee bar is the best place to sit, or at an airport where everybody knows there are lots of cameras, there's a lot of security, nothing will happen there. You will know for sure that all eyes will be focused on you. As a criminal and I, we don't fit in. So if something weird would happen, everybody would be a witness and they know it as well.


Back in 2015, Paul is busy covering crime in Amsterdam. Muggings, rival gangsters trying to kill each other, batches of dodgy drugs that put people's lives in danger. These seem like the things you'd imagine happen in any big city. Then one morning in December, he gets a call. It's from the police department.


A man in his 50s was shot with one bullet in the head and standing next to his fan, going to work. From Amsterdam, I went to Almeira, which is 20 minutes ride.


Is it somewhere you expect there to be shootings, murders? What area is this? Do they have lots of crime there? What's it like?


The area they live in Almera is just a very normal neighborhood with normal working class people. Not much trouble over there.


When Paul arrives, there's already red and white tape blocking the area, and police have put up a tent to cover the body. He gets out his notebook and starts to gather the facts. The victim is called Ali Matamed. He's 56 years old and he's an engineer at the state electric company. He's got a wife, a son. He's a family man. There isn't much else to go on. The electrician doesn't seem to have any connection to crime.


All the sources I asked, nobody knew who was this Ali Matamed.


To Paul, it just seems to be a random shooting. He heads back to his office and files a short story. A few weeks later, his editor asked him to write a roundup of the most notable crime stories of the last year. The murder in Almeir, it doesn't make the cut. Paul goes back to riding around on his bike and meeting his sources. But in the months after, Paul finds that he can't get the Matamid case out of his head. You know that thing, when you write a story and you have a nagging voice in your head, maybe there's something that I'm missing. Paul's covered a lot of murders, but this one, it seems weird. He can't shake the feeling that something doesn't quite add up. The first thing is the style of the killing. It wasn't a sloppy job or a wild act of rage.


The thing was that one shot through the head is not a familiar way of assassinating people. In other assassinations, automatic rifles are used, many bullets are shot.


Then there was the motive. One theory is that Matomid was part of some family feud or had argued with a friend. Most of the murders Paul writes about are that thing, all criminals killing each other over money or tough, settling scores. But that didn't really fit with the Matomed case. There were other theories.


Well, maybe electricians, so maybe he was in hemp business. The hemp people, they need illegal electricity.


Hemp is another name for weed. Some weed growers in the Netherlands steal electricity to power their operations. Matomid was an electrician. Maybe that was his connection to crime.


Maybe he was the wrong person. That was an idea.


This seemed like the most plausible explanation. A terrible case of mistaken identity. Paul keeps thinking about it. As he drops into cafes to meet informants about other stories. He mentions Ali Matomid's name.


Criminals didn't know him. Policeman didn't know him. I tried to do something research, but I didn't get a clue, to be honest.


As a reporter, you can have dozens of meetings that lead to nothing, but once in a while you get lucky. And that's what happens to Paul. Out of nowhere, he gets a tip.


I was talking to some source I knew very well. And this source told me just a second cup of coffee and he said, Paul, you remember this story of Alimote met? You're working on that still? Yes. You should go on and go on and dig and dig because there's a very weird, big story behind this murder.


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Paul wasn't the only person thinking about what happened in Almeir that day.


I remember this shooting, December 15. Your really nice neighbor got killed. Nobody knows why.


At the time, Ulas-Elyam was involved with the local city council.


Yeah, I remember it was like this mystery for people like, well, what happened?


Ulase, he's this intense guy who locks you into his gaze and he's a sharp dresser. When we meet, he's wearing this charcoal suit and a black, unbuttoned shirt down to his chest. When Ali Matomid is murdered, Ulas-e is just getting into local politics. He's a spokesperson for Safety and Public Order in Almeir, where Ali Muthamid was killed.


What was strange in this case, there was nothing. This was fueled by the national police.


Police appealed on national television for any information that the public could give them.


Do you have any tips? Do you have any suggestions? We put out this reward.


But no one came forward. A year goes by, still nothing.


I thought this is getting a bit weird. We don't have any clues. We just have to find the shooters. There's no information about the circumstances of the shooting.


Ulesy is particularly interested in this case because Ali Matamed, it turns out, was born in Iran. Ulesay's own family also moved to the Netherlands from Iran, around the same time that Ali Matamed did.


I'm named after Odysseus, the Greek king, because my father was... He was reading, Odysseus, and my father was like, Okay, I lost my home. I don't know where my home will be, but I'm sure this baby will find a new home.


Ulesy's father was a critic of the hardline theocracy imposed by the new regime in Iran after the revolution. He knew his life might be in danger if he stayed.


He had to go into hiding very fast. He never had the chance to say goodbye to his mother, for example, because it was too dangerous.


First, his father moved to Afghanistan, where Ulase was born, and then they moved to the Netherlands, eventually settling in Almeir. Ulase grew up in the same sleepy suburb where Ali Mithamid lived and died.


I've been living there for 20 years now. The funny thing is, or the special thing, it also relates to my history. It's a new city, the province, one of the nicknames is like New Land because it's built from water. Yeah, and my family came to a new land, started a new life. So yeah, it all connects really nicely.


Ullaseh isfather became a law professor and he kept speaking out against the Iranian regime from his new home. But there was a cost and this became a reality. When the family moved to Almeir, his father started getting serious threats.


At that time, my father received massive security protection. I was young. You're still focused on things you do when you're at that age, playing football, trying to enjoy life. But yeah, when you see your dad being transported with multiple bodyguards, yeah, of course, your life changes.


Decades later, when an Iranian man is shot in his hometown, it gets Ulas's attention. Even more so, when police finally share what they've pieced together from CCTV footage, it shows that the idea the assassins made a mistake looks less and less plausible. This was a meticulously planned operation. The police report is a difficult read. It's a chilling account of a cold premeditated murder planned over weeks. It reveals that the killers made two failed attempts in the days before Ali Mithomid was shot. On December 11th, 2015, at around quarter past 6:00 in the morning, a blue BMW drives slowly down the dark suburban street. The driver stops outside one of the houses and turns the car's headlights off. Inside, Ali Mathamid is getting started with his day. Usually, he leaves his house at quarter to 7:00, but today he has a job nearby. So he leaves later at 8:30 AM. At about 8:00 AM, the driver of the BMW turns the car back and leaves the street. A few days later, Monday, December 14th, the BMW arrives again at around quarter past 6:00. It's a regular work day, and Matamed walks out of his front door a little before 7:00.


A neighbor is also leaving their house at the same time, and the driver of the BMW spots him and Matamed and drives off. Tuesday, December 15th. The BMW appears at six o'clock. Matamed's wife and teenage son are asleep upstairs as he steps out of his house and shuts the front door. It is dark outside. No neighbors around this morning. As the electrician walks towards his van, a man walks up behind him and shoots him in the head. Matamed slumps to the ground. The shooter gets back in his BMW and the car speeds off.


They hit him directly, left with the car. I think, if I remember correctly, BMW 5, they went to the specific spot in another part of Almeira, burned the car and they leave.


The BMW was found burned out a few miles away and witnesses saw two men walking off.


It has all the signs of professionals in the criminal circuit. That made it even more strange like, okay, this is really professional and still we don't have any idea why, who.


This is the point that I started to see the first flicker to realize what a murder in a small Dutch town could have to do with the super cartel and what that could mean. Because Paul has kept on digging and he's made an.


Unbelievable discovery. I remember reading it and I think it was on a sunny Monday morning and I immediately I knew I felt in all my body, I knew, wow, this is crazy.


In 2018, Paul Briggs a big story. It's not about the murders, but it's about the victim.


I found out that Ali Motamed was not Ali Motomat, the electrician. He was an electrician, yes. But he lived in Holland with a false identity.


Ali Motamed was in reality an assumed identity. The electrician from Almeir had been living a secret life, one so secret that even some members of his own family didn't know who he really was.


Ali Muthamd was Muhammad Reza Kholhi Salmadi. And when he was 23 years old, he placed the bomb, which blew up 74 people of the Islamic Republic Party in Iran.


This happened in my city, quite close to where I live. And probably the regime, the whole reason I'm in Holland, they were able to find someone who they were looking for for like, at that time, 35 years. It was one of their prime targets because they wanted revenge. My dad always warned me they're dangerous. They found him. These are not bedtime stories, this is getting real.


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Sometimes you get a glimpse of something, the edge of what seems like it might be a much bigger story, and it leads you into a whole new place, a place where you're not quite sure what's going on and it's hard to know even where to start. That's where Paul finds himself after he learns about Ali Muthamid's past.


I had no sources at all in Iran. I had no sources at all in geopolitical world.


This clearly isn't a local murder case in a small town anymore. Paul has been pulled into what looks like a targeted assassination plot in the heart of Europe. But he doesn't have any proof, just a strong theory. Ulas is looking for answers too. He posts online about the case and wonders, does anyone know more about Mithamid or how the Iranian regime might have found him? Ulas's posts, they catch Paul's attention.


Paul called me, I saw your questions, let's talk.


After I broke the story, Ulas, Elian, and I met in Almeria, had coffee, and we tried to make plans to find the missing pieces of the puzzle. How can we get more insight in the backgrounds of this all?


The man his neighbors knew as Ali Matamed moved to the Netherlands in 1985. He wouldn't have particularly stood out. It was a time when many Iranians were fleeing Iran, just like Ulysses' father. But Ali Muthamid wasn't just fleeing. He was hiding. He was accused of carrying out the biggest terrorist attack in modern Iranian history. This is a big deal. This bombing in 1981, it killed a senior Ayatollah, four cabinet ministers, and reportedly dozens of other top Iranian officials. Mithamid fled Iran after the bombing, but was found guilty of absentia and sentenced to death. We don't know much about his years in the Netherlands, but we do know that he adopted a new identity and built a new life. He married a woman who was originally from Afghanistan. They had a son, and Mithamid got a job at the local electric company. For years, he led a simple suburban life. He went to work at the same time most days. His neighbors thought of him as punctual, trustworthy. No one really knew much more about him. But secretly, Mithamid knew that the Iranian regime was still looking for him, so he was incredibly careful. Reportedly, he didn't even tell his wife his true identity until a few years before his death.


And his son had no idea about Mithamid's past. I keep thinking about the loneliness and the isolation of someone who's bearing this huge secret from the people in their life who they're closest to, someone who spent almost his entire adulthood trying to stay one step ahead of people he knew were trying to kill him. Mithamid was careful to avoid his photograph appearing on social media, but not long before his murder, he seemed to have slipped up. A single photograph of him went up on Facebook celebrating his teenage son's high school graduation. Months later, a BMW pulled up outside his house early in the morning. This is a story I've been told to look at, the murder of a man living a secret life. A man on the run from a powerful regime. At this point, I can't see the connection between this murder and the Dubai super cartel. But then a few months later, something happens that takes us one step closer to understanding how all of this works. In April 2016, two Irish detectives arrive at a residential address not far from Dublin City Center. They have a search warrant because they've heard that an apartment in this building is being used as a safe house by Ireland's most powerful and dangerous criminal organization.


But inside, there are no Irishmen. Instead, the officers find a short man with a large belly who speaks only broken English. It's clear the man is rich. He's wearing bright blue designer sneakers covered in studs. When the detectives search the flat, they find 13,000 euros in cash and two Rolex watches. What's less clear is his identity. He has two different IDs, one Dutch, one Belgian, each with a different name. I remember the morning in which he was arrested, and I can tell you nobody knew who he was. Seamus Mohland is detective chief superintendent in the Irish Police Force. His officers raided the apartment that day. He was arrested for possession of false documents and there was no certainty about his identity at all. The police take him to the station and send his fingerprints and photo of the law enforcement agencies around the world. It's following his arrest and us issuing an assistance request across Europe that within a number of hours the Dutch police were in touch with us and they identified him from the photographs and fingerprints immediately. Senior Dutch police officers boarded a plane immediately and flew to Dublin. The Dutch police know who the man is, so does Paul Vux.


He was very.


Well-known and notorious in the Amsterdam crime scene.


His name is now for Fasi and Paul calls him by his nickname, Nofal. He's wanted for a string of drug-related murders. He was.


Seen as a guy who would do anything for money, who would be able to do very serious crimes without blinking in his eyes. Paul doesn't.


Know it yet, and nor did the police. But the man who sent two assassins to murder Ali Mithamid, it was Nofal. Nofal is a murder broker. He can arrange the killing of anyone, anywhere with just a couple of messages sent from his phone. The people hiding the murder broker in their Dublin safe house, Seamus knows exactly who they are. That organized crime group has been the primary group for the last 20, 25 years that built the networks, supplying drugs and firearms to this jurisdiction without a doubt. That organized crime group, the people who were hiding the murder broker in their safe house, they're at the heart of the super cartel. They're the men who gathered that day for the wedding in the luxury hotel in Dubai. But if Ulas is right, this isn't just a murder. This is a state-sponsored assassination, and it raises a big question.


What is the link between Nofil, the broker, and Eran?


Why would a hitman working with top cocaine traffickers murder someone apparently on behalf of a government. And if that's what happened, what does that tell us about the transformation of international organized crime? To find out, we're going to Ireland to talk to someone who's been following the family at the heart of the super cartel from the very start. You don't know if.


Somebody behind that door has a gun.


The adrenaline is flowing. Your heart is racing.


Anything could go wrong.


Hot Money is a production of The Financial Times and Pushkin Industries. It was written and reported by me, Miles Johnson. If you've got any leads or information about this story, you can email me at newnarcos@ft. Com. The series producer is Peggy Sutton. Edith Ruselo is the Associate Producer. Fact-checking is by Arthur Gompertz. Jason Gambrell and Amanda K-Wong are the mixing engineers. Sound design from Jake Gorsky. Jeremy Walmsley wrote the original music. Our editor is Sarah Nicks, and the executive producers are Jacob Goldstein and Cheryl Bromley. Special thanks to Rula Kalif, Marcia Wallraven, Laura Clark, Alistair Mackie, Brin Turner, Jude Webber, and Rich Ward. Want to.


Know how generative AI can supercharge your business? Sia Partners, next-generation management consultants, Optimists for Change. Find out more at sia-partners. Com.


How did a quasi-fictional novel about Vladimir Putin's Spin Doctor become an international best-selling sensation? Listen now and find out for yourself. Filled with real political insight and intrigue, The Wizard of the Kremlin is a thrilling look at the nature of power and the inner workings of Putin's regime at a time when the Russian leaders' decisions are reverberating across the world. Listen to the audiobook now at pushkin. Fm, or wherever audiobooks are sold.