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We put bad guys in jail. Reaches back on Prime Video. Looks like we had good old days. Yeah, you were on the sidelines while I do all the work. He's bigger. Surveillance photos don't do you justice. Badder. Why did you.


Got to hit him so hard?


I don't hit soft. And bolder than ever before. We're going to need more guns. Reacher, the new season, 15th of December, only on Prime Video.


Are you interested in stories of power, fame, royalty, and family politics? Hi, I'm Sarah Lyle, a reporter for The New York Times. My new pushkin audiobook, Unroyle, is an audio documentary that tells the story of three powerful women who married into and were ultimately rejected by the British monarchy, Wallace Simpson, Diana Spencer, and Megan Markle. Here, I blend the probing inquisition of your wrong about with the historical intrigue of the crown, serving a delectable royal feast for the ears. Check it out at pushkin. Fm/unroyale or wherever audiobooks are sold.


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Previously on Hot Money. We discovered how Dubai became the perfect place for the Super Cartel to come together. This time, I want to take you back to Dublin to Lower Baggett Street. It's a smart neighborhood, close to the city center, filled with grand Georgian houses. It's April 2016, and Irish detectives have received a tip-off. One of the apartments on the street is a Kinnehan Cartel safe house. But when they get there, they find someone else. A guy with a big belly speaking broken English. He's got some designer shoes, a bunch of fancy watches, and several IDs, each with a different name. Here's this guy who had a number of identities. Seamus Bolland, Chief Superintendant in the Irish police. He was arrested for possession of false documents and there was no certainty about his identity at all. 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. Senior Dutch police officers boarded a plane immediately and flew to Dublin. The Dutch police scramble to get to Ireland because the man they find in the flat is a murder broker who's a top enforcer for members of the Super Cartel.


He's the one who police suspect arranged the murder we heard about in episode one, a contract killing taken out on a man hiding from the Iranian regime and living undercover in Al-Meh, Ali Matamed. When I heard about this, I first started to see what Ali Matamed's death might reveal about the transformation of international organized crime. Because it raised a big question. How did the Dutch criminal working with the cocaine super cartel get mixed up in a murder that seems to have been ordered by Iran? At this stage, no one can prove the link to Iran. We still don't know who gave the murder broker his orders. There's no smoking gun. But something is quietly happening in a high tech unit of the Dutch police that's about to blow the case wide open. It's the start of something huge, a breakthrough that will make the global criminal underworld shudder. I'm Miles Johnson, and this is Hot Money: The New Narcos. Episode five, nerds v. Narcos. Last time, we heard about how the are ramping up their operations from Dubai. European police can't touch them there, and their huge criminal operations back home are booming. In the Netherlands, the ripples have started to reach Paul Verks.


The first five weeks, I didn't tell anyone. I didn't even tell my girlfriend. I was trying to get the heat away.


Remember Paul? He's the crime reporter with the leather jacket and the gold hoop hearing. The guy who likes to meet with gangsters in public places like bars and coffee shops. It's Paul who broke the news that the electrician killed an Almeir was actually a man on the run from the Iranian regime. But one day, Paul gets a different tip from a source, and this one's about him. He hears that a group of criminals have started to talk about him. They think he's got information, information that links them to several recent gangland killings.


They decided to have me assassinated so that my information could not reach the news or the police.


I was pretty stunned when I found out about the threats to Paul's life. I've worked in Italy and I've written about the Italian mafia. I've spent time with state prosecutors living under police protection and reporters who fear for their lives. But a reporter hasn't been killed in Italy for many years and neither has a judge. Now in the Netherlands, one of the richest and most politically stable countries in the world, organized crime seemed to be out of control. More and more murders were happening as the top kingpins tightened their grip on the drugs market. Paul's reporting on it, it landed a target on his back. At first, he doesn't tell anyone. He just keeps trying to figure out what's going on.


Day by day, week by week, the source provided new information.


Paul is able to keep safe for now, but there's a limit to how long he can go on like this.


I didn't talk to the police about it.


He faces a dilemma. If he tells the police, he knows he won't be able to do his work. Understandably, criminals aren't so keen on meeting a reporter with a police escort.


As a journalist, I need to stay independent. It's one of my weapons.


But he chooses to make a bold move. He reaches out to the criminals directly, the ones who are after him. He sends them a message to an intermediary and tells them he knows about the threats.


That's the same the police will do. If they know about a plan to kill someone, they'll go to the guys involved and ring the door and tell them, We know what you're up to, don't.


It's not long before Dutch law enforcement also finds out about the threats, and one of Paul's police contacts calls them up.


He told me, Paul, very bad information, but we need to meet now. I told him, Let's go to my house. I'll arrange some coffee and cookies, and then we'll be having an uncomfortable discussion because you are not going to tell me what you know in detail and I won't tell you what I know in detail.


Paul and the policeman sit down and have a chat over coffee and cookies, which is possibly the most Dutch response you can imagine to any situation. And it quickly becomes clear their information matches up.


And then all kinds of other people from the government got involved.


He tries to keep working, but it becomes clear that the people who are after him, they haven't given up.


And then one day it was clear that if we wouldn't leave now, we would not be safe anymore.


Paul and his girlfriend now raced to pack their bags because they've been told they have to move to a safe house.


A very luxurious place, much more luxurious than our normal apartment.




Was transported like the king, quite literally, because the same organization that secured me secures the king. I was in a luxury, but it was like a golden cage because I couldn't get out. I couldn't get anywhere without a group of people, well-trained, well-armed people around me. That's a weird way to live and a weird way to do your job, but they made it possible for me to work. There hasn't been one day I've not been working because of this.


It's not just the threats against Paul. Really crazy things start to happen. Criminals fire a rocket launcher at the offices of a Dutch magazine that's been running stories about drugs traffickers. No one is hurt, but the message is very clear. Journalists are now fair game. If you choose to report on us, you're choosing to put your life in danger. It's like Paul and his colleagues aren't just crime journalists anymore. They're on the front line covering a full-blown attack on Dutch society. The men behind it all, they aren't even in the Netherlands. They're in Dubai, living the high life and far out the reach of law enforcement. But police are about to make a breakthrough that will change everything.


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If you were to put the Millennium Falcon in space, would it actually work as a spaceship? Why has Gothic become the hot new literary genre? Is the role-playing game Warhammer basically lawyers playing with action figures? I'm Eric Mulinsky, the host of imaginary worlds. Science fiction and fantasy stories may be set on other planets or parallel dimensions, but they're created by people in our world. Each episode we examine these fantasy stories to learn what they can tell us about ourselves. I've talked with novelists like Andy Weir, who wrote The Martian, designers of games like Magic: The Gathering, writers of hit TV shows like Star Trek's Range New Worlds, and the puppeteer who designed Miss Piggy. You can subscribe to imaginary worlds wherever you get your podcasts.


I really got enthusiastic on that day, hearing the panic.


Take a moment to imagine someone who strikes terror into the hearts of the world's most murderous criminals. I can guarantee you're not picturing Martin Engbert. Martin's slight and softly-spoken, thoughtful, he has a bit of the air of a tech guy, a Silicon Valley, Blue Sky Thinker, and a Steve Jobs style black turtle neck. Martin is the Dutch public prosecutor for high tech crime. In 2017, he and his team are working on a secret project, one that will turn him into a nerdy Batman. It all starts when Dutch police notice a new gadget showing up on the bodies of murdered gang members. They all seem to be carrying a particular and peculiar type of cell phone.


They don't have a camera and the camera is removed. They don't have a microphone. The microphone is removed.


These phones are useless for calls, and they're only good for messaging. The phone service runs through specialized companies that offer a particular promise to their clients.


They advertise. Police cannot break the encryption on the phones.


Back in the days before encrypted messages, if criminals were smart, they would meet face to face. And if they were stupid, they speak on the phone.


Now, I don't want to say famous, but we are well-known for wiretapping. But the organized crime groups know that. The organized crime groups in the Netherlands, they don't talk about anything on the phone themselves anymore.


Technology disrupts every business sector, and drug trafficking is no different. These crypto phones transform the way people run organized crime groups. You don't need to be in the same city anymore to send an order to an underling. You don't even need to be in the same country. You can now run a vast and complex drug trafficking empire from Dubai without ever getting your hands dirty. You can connect with suppliers, you can manage your finances, and most importantly, you can order murders. The police have almost no way of seeing what you're up to. Martin and his colleagues are determined to figure out a way to crack these phones, but they're stuck in a legal Catch-22. Martin is certain that the phones are being used by organized criminals, but he can't prove it without access to the messages. To get access, he needs proof that they really are being used for crime. He comes up with a solution. Don't go after the criminals, go after the phone company. Most of the phones are made by a small Dutch supplier called Enetcom, and most of their servers are in Canada.


We convinced the Canadian judge that there would be evidence on those servers proving that NETCOM was supplying telephones to criminals.


One morning after getting permission from a judge, a team from Martin's office get on a flight from Amsterdam to Canada.


I remember a lot of details of the day we went to Canada. We copied six terabytes, which seemed a lot of data. Everybody was really excited because you think we have six terabytes of emails, which would be billions of messages.


It's a potentially huge breakthrough, a treasure trove of information and evidence, but it's all encrypted. There are layers and layers of passwords and digital keys. And even if they do crack the encryption, Martin has another problem.


At com, try to delete all the information of their clients after two or three days. So you receive an email, you read the email, you do nothing with the email, and then after two or three days, it will self-delete.


The hackers on the high tech team get to work. They grind late into the night trying to break the encryption on the messages. There's a lot of trial and error. First, the team have to crack the master password. To do that, they have to try millions of passwords, millions of combinations. It takes months.


We brute force the password. We tried a lot of passwords, and eventually we were able to break the password off the key server. By doing that, we were able to use the private keys. If you have the private keys and you have to encrypt messages, then it's easy.


Martin and his colleagues have prized open a vault of evidence about what's really going on inside European organized crime. They can see how conspiracies unfolded minute by minute through strings of chats between gangsters. To really set the cat amongst the pigeons, Martin's team added a little flourish, a middle finger to the criminals.


We send out a message to all the users of Anetcom. We told them, The police is now in Canada securing all the information of your phones. And we heard the panic. So in the Netherlands, the panic within the organized crime group started on that day.


I've talked about the glimpses we sometimes get of organized crime, and this, it was like turning on a floodlight. It sends shockwaves through the criminal wonderworld, but it's about to get even worse for them. Martin's team soon figure out a way to recover the deleted messages, the ones that NX Com and its users believed were gone forever, and suddenly, a once hidden universe of crime, of alliances and global connections is illuminated.


A lot more information about assassinations and about the importation of drugs. But for Martin.


There's something even more shocking. Reading through the messages, the police suddenly see how easy it's become to order murders using these phones. A crime boss can order a contract killing as easily as they would order a pizza.


In the Netherlands, there were multiple groups that you could hire to assassinate someone. My work is high tech crime. So for me, it was really strange to see that there wasn't one group, more multiple groups that you could hire. To kill someone. And buried.


Inside the millions of messages on the NECOM servers is one brief conversation from November 2015. It's a set of simple and chilling instructions sent from one user to another. The first message reads, Got a nice job for you, bro. The response, Who needs to go to sleep? Then it's a tug. He works in the electricity company and drives a white van. Why he has to go to sleep? I don't know. And I don't even want to know.


Want to drive innovation in a digital world? Sia Partners, next-generation management consultants. Optimists for change. Find out more at sia-partners. Com.


Are you interested in stories of power, fame, royalty, and family politics? Hi, I'm Sarah Lyle, a reporter for The New York Times. My new pushkin audiobook, Unroyle, is an audio documentary that tells the story of three powerful women who married into and were ultimately rejected by the British monarchy, Wallace Simpson, Diana Spencer, and Megan Markle. Here, I blend the probing inquisition of your wrong about with the historical intrigue of the Crown, serving a delectable royal feast for the ears. Check it out at pushkin. Fm/unroyale or wherever audiobooks are sold.


Every murder case deserves a solution and people should be brought to justice and trial. But if foreign government, especially countries, dictatorships, or the killings in another Western country, this is a thing. We met Ulas-e.


Elianne in episode one. He's the local councilor in our mayor, the Dutch town where Ali Matamed was murdered. And thanks to Paul's reporting, Ulas-e now knows that the electrician was in fact a man on the run from the Iranian regime. He also knows that the people who pulled the trigger were Dutch criminals, but he still doesn't know who gave them orders, who hired them. Ulas-e has a strong theory, though. He thinks it has to be the Iranian regime, the same regime that forced his father to flee Iran decades before, but he can't prove it. Ulas-e does everything he can to raise awareness of the murder. He lobbies local politicians. He starts doing radio and TV interviews about it, including with the Dutch state broadcaster, NOS.


I was like, Okay, things are moving. In the right direction. I'm getting attention for this very important.


Murder case. You were going out a little bit on your own saying something which sounds like a crazy story. As you said, this is a-.


Yeah, it is.


Was anyone saying you're wrong or where's the proof?


The weird thing in politics is the official response you get, it's like, We won't tell you anything about an individual case. We don't know. There's no information. Don't bother. I was like, I'm not going to take that for an answer.


Because for Ulas-e, this is about a lot more than just one murder.


If this is true, what is the implication for Iranian people living in the west who fled the country and are speaking out? What's the implication for them? The key message from the regime, it's a message to all of Europe. We're going to find you, because let me emphasize this once more. This guy, they were looking for him for 35 years.


After all of this, you were going on TV, you were giving interviews, you were pressing the importance of this case and what you thought, what you believed based on your evidence and your thinking about it, what you thought really was the case. Then in 2019, suddenly, boom, boom. Ulasay was shouting about the Matamed murder to anyone who would listen. He'd lobbied his local mayor, the police, even national politicians, and no one gave him answers. It felt like he was banging his head against a brick wall. Then one day... I was.


In my office working and then boom, my telephone exploded. Boom, these push messages. I was like, Finally, we're doing something back to the regime showing like, Okay, don't do this. The Dutch foreign minister.


Has announced that based on classified information from the Dutch intelligence services, the government believes that Iran was responsible for the Matamed murder and another murder as well.


I remember his words were like, For 99 %, for sure, we know that the Iranians did this. It was, of course, because formerly the minister could not conclude officially it was the Iranians, but it was like, 99%, we know we expelled them.


The expulsion of diplomats, it might sound, well, a bit diplomatic, a slap on the wrist, but in foreign relations, this is a big deal, a rare move. For Ulase, it's his own country finally agreeing that he was right all along. The people behind Matamed's murder were in Tehran.


These are important moments. But then this quite rapidly changed to something ugly for me.


When Ulase does another round of news interviews linking Tehran to the Matamed murder and to the murder broker known as Nofal, Nofal is not happy. Even though he's in prison, awaiting trial, he finds a way to let Ulas know about it. A lawyer working for Mr. Nafal Fasi, that's Nofal's full name, files a legal complaint against Ulasay. He says he's abusing his position and making false allegations about his clients' connections to Iran.


I remember, I'm sure you can relate, this feeling, sometimes, unfortunately, this happens in life. You get really cold and you feel the energy flowing from your head to you. It just drains your energy. I got really cold and I was like, Okay, I know who Mr. Fasi is. It was clear for me this is pure intimidation. Fifteen years ago, people threw a rock at your window. This is the modern form of intimidation. We know who you are. Stop talking about this connection.


Ulesay tells the Dutch security services about the letter. They decide that his life and his family are in danger. So Ulesay, just like Paul and like his own father decades before, is now put under police protection.


Yeah, but then they made one mistake. They didn't study my character or my family history. I immediately went out publicly and said, I will not be intimidated. Go to hell. I will never be intimidated.


Ulesay isn't shutting up because he still has too many questions about the murder. He knows that now for Fasi, Nawful, was found in a Cinnaband safe house in Dublin, and that Nofil was the one who arranged for Al-Ima to be murdered. Now he knows that the Dutch government believes it was Iran who was ultimately behind the assassination.


But someone spoke to Mr. Fasi. I don't know who. It's not like someone from Tehran is calling Mr. Fasi. That's not how things work.


How do things work? The super cartel seems to be connected to this murder. But what does that connection mean? What links these two things together? As I was looking into all of this, pulling on threads, I came across a case that might help us begin to understand.


Somehow we had established our credibility at that point. She already knew we were high-level drug traffickers, probably multiton. We had connections to the military, which cost her to open the door for us.


That's next time on Hot Money. 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 Ruslow is the Associate Producer. Fact-checking is by Arthur Gompert. Engineering by Sarah Brugair. 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 Laura Clark, Marcia Wallraven, Alistair Mackley, Brian Turner, and Arlie Adlington.


Change comes at you fast. Are you ready to make the most of it? Sia Partners, Next-Generation Management Consultants, Optimists for Change. Find out more at sia-partners. Com.


Are you interested in stories of power, fame, royalty, and family politics? Hi, I'm Sarah Lyle, a reporter for The New York Times. My new pushkin audiobook, Unroyle, is an audio documentary that tells the story of three powerful women who married into and were ultimately rejected by the British monarchy, Wallace Simpson, Diana Spencer, and Megan Markle. Here, I blend the probing inquisition of your wrong about with the historical intrigue of the Crown, serving a delectable royal feast for the ears. Check it out at pushkin. Fm/unroyale or wherever audiobooks are sold.