How does a young student majoring in Portuguese at Georgetown University in Washington, DC become one of the biggest drug smugglers on Earth? And how does he survive 25 years in the trade – and encounters with some of its most powerful and ruthless figures, from Pablo Escobar to Narcos: Mexico’s Alberto Sicilia Falcón – when he hates violence and never carries a gun?
In his decades in the business, the savvy, charismatic Luis Navia was responsible for hundreds of tonnes of cocaine making their way across the globe. In the process, he became a multimillionaire, but while living as a fugitive spent heavily on a lavish but wasteful lifestyle. All while Luis – torn between guilt and adrenalin – tried to maintain a semblance of normal family life as he frequently veered out of control.
In Pure Narco, Australian author Jesse Fink brilliantly tells this incredible story through the eyes of Luis, his family, and his wife and former lovers – as well as the relentless American law-enforcement officials who finally swooped and brought him to justice. It’s a white-powdered, white-knuckle ride you’ll never forget.
It’s a life story that reads like something out of a John Grisham or Elmore Leonard novel that it’s remarkable it has remained untold for so long.
Careers in the cocaine-trafficking business are usually short. It’s not only a dangerous profession, fraught with the possibility of capture and long jail sentences, but it can be deadly if the cartels get to you first.
Not for Luis Antonio Navia.
For 25 years the Cuban-American smuggled hundreds of tons of white powder for the biggest cartels in Colombia and Mexico, including Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel.
In a profession populated by thugs, Navia’s dress sense and good manners earned him the nickname ‘El Senador’ (The Senator). He refused to carry a weapon.
What made him good at his job was amassing trusted contacts, losing very few shipments of coke, and keeping a low profile. He also maintained a normal family life with a Colombian wife and two young children.
But he was never far removed from the most brutal violence imaginable.
One friend got his head cut off. Another was hit over the head, put in a 55-gallon drum full of cement and dumped in a canal. Navia himself was kidnapped three times and went close to being fed alive to crocodiles.
Somehow through it all he managed to survive and spent two decades fooling the DEA and other law-enforcement agencies.
That was until he came under the radar of Robert Harley, a tenacious US Customs special agent in Key West, Florida, who was determined to bring him to justice.
What followed was an international game of cat-and-mouse that culminated in Navia’s 2000 arrest in Venezuela in one of the biggest antinarcotics takedowns of all time, the 12-nation Operation Journey.
Spanning decades, continents and featuring a who’s who of the drug trade, Pure Narco is a fast-paced adventure ride into the dark underworld of cocaine trafficking, written with the cooperation of a dozen law-enforcement agents from the world’s top antinarcotics forces in the United States and Great Britain.
It also contains insider insights into how the global drug business operates and offers some cogent solutions to the never-ending ‘war on drugs’.
Navia served his time in jail and is now free to tell his tale. His is the rare perspective of someone who has worked on both sides of that war: as a cocaine trafficker and US Government consultant.
This book is a redemption story. Luis Navia, the pure narco, has gone full circle.
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