SEX DRUGS AND SURF­BOARDS

Tracks - - Surfing And Cocaine -

THE TRUE STORY OF THE SURFERS BE­HIND AN IN­TER­NA­TIONAL DRUG RACKET AND THE COPS WHO HUNTED THEM ACROSS THE GLOBE. THE FOL­LOW­ING EX­CERPTS WERE TAKEN FROM KATHRYN BONELLA’S HIGHLY AD­DIC­TIVE NON-FIC­TION BOOK, OP­ER­A­TION PLAY­BOY.

ONE: MAK­ING BLOW BOARDS

Around 2 am, Jorge left his mum’s apart­ment and drove across to the lake area for an in­tense night of mak­ing magic in a surf­board fac­tory. As he walked through the metal gate, the place was still and quiet, the sec­re­taries and shapers and lin­ger­ing surfer clients long gone home. Only Jorge’s good friend, the boss, Igor, was here, wait­ing for him. Tonight, they were go­ing to turn blow in­vis­i­ble.

Jorge loved this place. Shiny, colour­ful boards lined the walls and equip­ment like saws, sanders, scis­sors and foam blanks was scat­tered ev­ery­where. The dis­tinct, in­tense aroma of fiber­glass and resin hung in the still air. It was a surfer’s heaven. Jorge saw the newly shaped bare foam board on the ta­ble. This would shroud his blow. He was switch­ing to us­ing boards since Cafiero’s bust a few weeks ago had ru­ined surf­board bags. For a while at least, the lin­ings of the bags would be given ex­tra scru­tiny at São Paulo air­port. Us­ing surf­boards was an old way of smug­gling blow that came in and out of vogue, de­pend­ing on busts. Jorge was here to help with the metic­u­lous job. He knew blow and Igor knew boards. He was a top shaper with a busy client list, in­clud­ing some of Brazil’s top pro surfers, even one on the World Tour. Tonight was just for a bit of ex­tra cash. Surf­board shapers were the poor cousins of the surf­ing world, mak­ing lit­tle money.

They quickly set to work on the first board. Jorge sliced a kilo brick in two, then they fig­ured out where to in­sert each half. For bal­ance, the blow needed to sit ei­ther side of the stringer, a thin strip of wood that ran down the cen­tre of the foam. These boards would never hit the wa­ter but had to look and feel gen­uine – a lop­sided board could send a horse down as fast as a cus­toms of­fi­cer picked it up. Horses’ lives were in Igor’s hands, and he knew it. He had to cus­tom cut the cav­i­ties in the foam for a per­fect fit for each brick. An­other cru­cial step was lay­ing car­bon fi­bre across the en­tire deck of the board for cam­ou­flage dur­ing X-rays. It was slow work, but the hours flew. The sun was ris­ing and soon Igor’s staff would ar­rive. They fin­ished off by spray paint­ing the clear board with crazy bright colours, then called it a night. They’d come back that night to fi­bre­glass and sand it, and start all over again on the next board.

“I spent about five hours on each surf­board from cut­ting the blow, to mea­sur­ing, find­ing the right po­si­tion in the foam, cut­ting the hole, put­ting in the blow and put­ting a lit­tle layer of foam on the top. After that you put car­bon fi­bre on the top and then this glass-like resin, and wait for it to dry, then put resin again, it’s a process that takes hours.” – Jorge

When the three boards were done, Jorge gave them to Darcy, who was set to do his first blow run to Europe after only skunk runs to Brazil. “I fi­nally thought why not? It was the be­gin­ning of the end.” – Darcy Un­like Cafiero, Darcy would look a nat­u­ral car­ry­ing surf­boards. The only thing work­ing against him was the des­ti­na­tion. Tak­ing boards to Bali was nor­mal, a surf trip to Am­s­ter­dam was not, but if any­one could talk their way through, it was Darcy.

TWO: CLOWN SHOW

As Darcy limped through São Paulo air­port, it felt good to be fly­ing again. Cafiero, Marco, Bernardo; none of these busts gave him pause to look down from the high-wire he danced on so el­e­gantly. He had no doubts to­day he was go­ing to pirou­ette through air­port check­points with his smile and slick repar­tee. But at the fed­eral po­lice head­quar­ters in Flo­ri­anópo­lis, Darcy’s name was sud­denly flash­ing on the radar. One of Caieron’s agents had just taken a call, an anony­mous tip. ‘Chief, a guy named Darcy San­tos is fly­ing to Europe with co­caine to­day.’ ‘Darcy’ rang a bell for Caieron: he’d heard it in wire-taps. ‘Call Flo­ri­anópo­lis air­port,’ he said. Soon the agent came back re­port­ing there was no sign of Darcy at Flo­ri­anópo­lis air­port. ‘Okay, call São Paulo air­port.’

Darcy was checking in at São Paulo, re­fus­ing to give space to neg­a­tive thoughts: the rough surf­boards, the fact his ticket was via Por­tu­gal, or the peren­nial hic­cup when car­ry­ing blow boards to Am­s­ter­dam – its lack of waves. He breezed through, walked to the gate, showed his board­ing pass and was ush­ered onto the plane. With his slight limp from torn lig­a­ments in a bad wipe­out, he went down the aisle to his seat and col­lapsed into it, glad to be rest­ing his sore leg.

On the ground, Caieron’s agent was alert­ing São Paulo air­port po­lice. As they started search­ing for Darcy’s name in pas­sen­ger man­i­fests, he was buck­ling up, ready and wait­ing for the tilt up­wards. The plane un­docked from the jet bridge, rolled back and swung around. Within min­utes, it was hurtling along the run­way, lift­ing off into the big blue. Darcy felt happy and re­laxed. He watched out the win­dow as puffs of white clouds started ob­scur­ing the sprawl­ing me­trop­o­lis, soon mak­ing it van­ish com­pletely. Darcy lay his head back against the seat, en­joy­ing a glass of wine and ready to sleep, un­aware how close he’d come to run­ning out of luck.

Ten hours later, he was wide awake. As the plane landed in Lis­bon, he was ready for his usual rou­tine; walk­ing across to im­mi­gra­tion with his con­ta­gious smile. When he handed over his pass­port some­thing was up – he didn’t get the usual re­turn smile.

“The lady says, ‘Oh, can you wait just one minute,’ and she left. All the other lines kept mov­ing, but I was stuck there. It was re­ally weird. I knew some­thing was wrong. Then, five min­utes later she comes back with my pass­port. ‘Okay, that’s fine.’ She stamps my pass­port, and I felt ‘that was weird’ but since she let me in, ‘ev­ery­thing is fine’, and I went up­stairs to get my flight to Am­s­ter­dam. I was hun­gry, so I had a slice of pizza and a beer in a café, bought a big Toblerone and went to my gate. I saw ‘Am­s­ter­dam’ and stopped at the gate, and was re­laxed, sit­ting, eat­ing a slice of choco­late and read­ing a magazine . . . and then two guys came, one said, ‘Mr Darcy San­tos?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Can I see your pass­port?’ ’Yes.’ So, he looked at it.‘Okay, can you stand up?’ As soon as I stand up, two guys put my hands be­hind my back and hand­cuff me. I go, ‘Fuck, oh my god.’ They start walk­ing me out, and one guy says, ‘You know what this is all about, don’t you?’ ‘No, I don’t.’ He says, ‘It’s all about your lit­tle surf­boards’.” – Darcy

Darcy’s heart was rac­ing. His life, his fu­ture, his fam­ily flashed through his mind. He didn’t no­tice if peo­ple were watch­ing. He didn’t care; he was con­sumed by his predica­ment and in a whirl­wind of con­fu­sion, a rush­ing in his head, a sense of ver­tigo, spin­ning off bal­ance on the high-wire. For the first time, he was forced to look down. They frog-marched him, two cops, two of­fi­cials, through Lis­bon air­port. ‘Oh, I was feel­ing bad. I had my hands in hand­cuffs, and wow – I felt like shit.’ He was barely con­scious of the steps or his sore knee as they led him down­stairs to an of­fi­cial area. In­side the room, Darcy first glimpsed a row of plas­tic seats stuck to the wall like a bus stop, one oc­cu­pied by a black guy. Then his eyes flew to his surf­board bag on the floor. It struck him that it was still pad­locked shut, so how did they know? Why was it even here when it was checked through to Am­s­ter­dam? He shut down these thoughts. There was no time for anal­y­sis now. They sat him down, but didn’t go straight to his bags.

They started fo­cus­ing on the other guy, try­ing to in­ter­ro­gate him, a Nige­rian who’d been busted on the same flight with half a kilo of blow

in his suit­case. He didn’t speak Por­tuguese, they didn’t speak English. Darcy of­fered to trans­late. As an English teacher it was his in­stinct to help, but it might also win him some points. It did. ‘Take his hand­cuffs off,’ the boss or­dered. Darcy be­gan trans­lat­ing, his own bag sit­ting two me­tres away like a tick­ing time bomb.

It was at least 90 min­utes be­fore two more cops ar­rived. Darcy watched as they started twist­ing and bang­ing one of the surf­boards with no hope of breaking it de­spite the board’s nat­u­ral fragility. It was like a clown show. Un­der other cir­cum­stances, Darcy might have laughed at their slap­stick per­for­mance, but right now he was just hop­ing, ‘Maybe I’ll get free if they can’t open it.’ But they weren’t giv­ing up, and fi­nally got a prop for their un­in­ten­tional the­atrics: a sledge­ham­mer.

“They started boom, boom, just strong hits with the ham­mer, ru­in­ing the board, but still not breaking it. It was sur­real. Then they fig­ured it out – one held the nose of the board up to his stom­ach, and the other boom, boom, boom. After three, four, five hits, they fi­nally broke it and then the fi­bre­glass was stick­ing out of the foam and they al­most got hurt, and whoa! A bunch of pow­der comes on the ground.” – Darcy

Darcy felt as in­versely mis­er­able as they looked happy. One cop dipped his fin­ger into the blow, licked it, then grinned at Darcy: ‘Wow, your shit is good, isn’t it?’ Darcy shrugged, not wish­ing to in­flame things by be­ing rude, but thought, ‘Well, dude, I’m hardly go­ing to bring bad shit all the way to Europe, am I?’ He saw again the re­al­ity that he’d dis­missed at home in Jur­erê, that the boards were badly made – un­sanded and rough, an ob­vi­ous red flag to any­one with the vaguest clue about boards. But this Lau­rel and Hardy duo clearly knew some­thing long be­fore they’d opened the bag. Em­ploy­ing their new­found skill, the pair quickly broke the other two boards. They care­fully ex­tracted the blow bricks from the foam and swept pow­der spillage up off the floor, pick­ing out the bits of dirt and fi­bre­glass with their fin­gers. Then they put the lot into two plas­tic su­per­mar­ket bags, and weighed it in at 3.49 ki­los. Darcy watched from his wall seat, feel­ing as shat­tered as his boards.

“I felt like shit. I felt de­pressed, I felt an­gry, I felt bad, I felt stupid, but there was noth­ing I could do. There was no way out.” – Darcy

THREE: ON THE RUN

... Jorge and Dim­itrius were hav­ing din­ner at Made’s Warung in Seminyak, the place where they’d had lunch on Jorge’s first trip to Bali. Tonight, they were anx­ious. Ro­drigo should have al­ready mes­saged that magic word, ‘goal’. It was after 7 pm and he’d been due to ar­rive in Jakarta at 3 pm. The mes­sage still hadn’t come by the time they fin­ished, so they split up. Dim­itrius went back to his villa and Jorge on to Ku De Ta, agree­ing to call each other with any news.

At Ku De Ta, Jorge was soon partying with a Rus­sian babe, splash­ing out on cock­tails, shar­ing gen­er­ous lines of blow in the bath­room and sit­ting on lounges perched on the beach­front, where the club cast out lights that made the wa­ter glow. Jorge loved this stylish bar, but tonight he was edgy, con­stantly checking his watch, look­ing at his phone and try­ing to get through to Rufino or Timi in Flo­ri­anópo­lis. Around 3 am, walk­ing out of the toi­lets with the Rus­sian babe after shar­ing some more blow, his phone rang.

‘We’re fucked, we’re fucked. We’re all fucked,’ yelled Rufino. As mu­sic blared around him, Jorge tried calm­ing him down so he could find out what was go­ing on. He needed facts, not hys­te­ria, de­spite his own ris­ing panic. ‘Cool down. Tell me what’s go­ing on.’ ‘They’ve busted Ro­drigo and the two kids at Jakarta air­port.’ Jorge was high and drunk and now seized by gut-wrench­ing ter­ror. He’d been sup­press­ing fear about Marco’s fate, but now it com­pounded the panic tear­ing through his body. He had one in­stinct. He said good­bye to the Rus­sian babe and some friends, raced out of Ku De Ta, and fled to his nearby villa. He grabbed his pass­port, threw es­sen­tials into a bag, left cash for the bike, car and villa rentals, scrawled a note for two friends stay­ing with him, then grabbed a cab to Den­pasar air­port.

“I was very scared. I thought that Ro­drigo could talk, I didn’t know. I felt that he wouldn’t tell my name, but you never know.” – Jorge

It was 5 am by the time he ar­rived at the air­port, still high and drunk, dressed in head to toe black Gucci, and a pair of black D&B avi­a­tor sun­glasses to mask his eyes. He quickly bought a ticket to Sin­ga­pore. From there, he’d book a flight to Am­s­ter­dam to break his trail. The air­port was ghostly, and he was facing six hours here as he’d just missed a flight. This was the last place he wanted to be, but he had to get out – if Ro­drigo talked, he’d be a sit­ting duck in Bali. With his long blond pony­tail, dark glasses and the usual bling, he was hardly in­vis­i­ble, but he was try­ing to blend in and ap­pear calm. At­tract­ing at­ten­tion could be fa­tal. He skulked in and out of shops, oc­ca­sion­ally sit­ting down. His heart was pound­ing, a mix of blow and adrenalin rush­ing through his veins, the blow ex­ac­er­bat­ing his para­noia. He was in con­stant fear of the clutch­ing dark hand of an In­done­sian cop com­ing from the shad­ows and nab­bing him.

“It was ter­ri­fy­ing. I didn’t even call Dim­itrius. I got so scared. I switched off all my phones. I was sweat­ing, and hid­ing my para­noid eyes with my avi­a­tor sun­glasses. Wait­ing to get on that fuck­ing plane was the long­est six hours ever.” – Jorge Op­er­a­tion Play­boy by Kathryn Bonella, pub­lished by Macmil­lan Aus­tralia, RRP $34.99 trade pa­per­back, avail­able from your lo­cal book out­let

Busted – stripped, ‘cus­tom-made’ surf­boards re­veal an al­ter­na­tive pur­pose.

Above: Joaquina Beach in Brazil, a key lo­ca­tion for the ma­jor play­ers in the co­caine net­work ex­am­ined in Kathryn Bonella’s, Op­er­a­tion Play­boy. In­set: Maryeva Oliveira, the sis­ter of one of the surfers caught up in a ma­jor drug racket, on the cover of ‘Brazil­ian Play­boy’.

Photo:

Above: De­spite the heavy penal­ties, Bali pro­vided one of the ma­jor mar­kets for a ma­jor drug ring op­er­ated out of Brazil. Re­spon­dek

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