Notorious outlaws are fascinating characters. From Scotland’s Highlanders to the rogues of the Wild West, our society has long been fascinated by the larger than life characters who spurn the accepted order in the world and decide to make their own luck.
Our historical distance from characters like Rob Roy or Billy the Kid makes us romanticize the lifestyle of these outlaws more than we should.
On the other hand, for today’s equivalent of yesterday’s gangsters, we reserve the right emotions in the right amount. How would any of us react if they had one of ISIS’ graduates in front of them with a machete or if El Chapo came out of a sewage hole covered in faeces and holding a shiv he made out of his former cellmate’s skull?
As much as we love to glorify (some of) these outlaws in Netflix or HBO specials, we recognize them for what they are – dangerous criminals we want as far away from our children and ourselves as possible. But for some, incarceration and physical distance are irrelevant as they continue to threaten us from afar.
In this list, we’ll go through the 15 most dangerous gangsters still terrorizing our world.
15. The Kim Kardashian of Organised Crime, Claudia Ochoa Felix
You don’t get a nickname as good as “The Kim Kardashian of Organised Crime” unless you deserve it. But how did this mysterious Mexican woman found her way into our list of the world’s deadliest gangsters? When her boyfriend Jose Rodrigo Arechiga “El Chino” Gamboa got arrested for the suspected murder of three people who were found hanging from a bridge in Mexico, Miss Felix took up leadership of his gang, Los Ántrax.
Los Ántrax have long since been on US intelligence’s radar as one of the world’s most powerful trafficking organisations, and they are known to spread terror throughout Mexico with waves of grisly murders.
14. “Diabolik” Mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro
After the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano in April 2006, and Salvatore Lo Piccolo in November 2007, Matteo Messina Denaro is now one of the most influential leaders of Cosa Nostra, in spite of sharing his nickname with a well-known Italian comic book character.
If any criminals alive today can claim the title of “Godfather”, Matteo has the best claim. He is as ruthless as he is wealthy and violent, which explains why the constant asset seizures by the authorities have done little to harm him. He’s been a fugitive since 1993, and he’s one of the ten most wanted criminals in the world.
13. Albanian mystery man, Daut Kadriovski
The Albanian crime syndicate is one of the most troublesome criminal organisations in the world, mostly because details regarding its leadership are often unreliable. The gang is active in Albania, Europe and the United States and is famous for its taste for violence, murder, torture, terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking.
At the top of it all, we’re almost certain is Daut Kadriovski, a man who has been in prison twice, but always managed to escape. Some say he’s dead while others say he’s alive. With monsters of this magnitude, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution. Several international intelligence agencies are still actively pursuing Kadriovski’s arrest, with no luck since his last escape.
12. The master of kidnapping, Abubakar Shekau
As leader of the Islamist terrorist organisation Boko Haram, Abubakar has to be one of the most despised creatures on the planet. Although technically a terrorist group, Boko Haram is nothing more than a gang with a religious, fundamentalist ideology.
Shekay has famously said, “Western education is a sin” and wants to institute Sharia law in Nigeria. He aims to achieve this goal by bombing Nigerian villages and kidnapping schoolgirls who attend Christian learning institutions. There have been several reports of his capture and death, but they’ve all been unsubstantiated. Shekau remains on the loose and terrorising villages all over the African nation.
11. “El Chapo”, Joaquín Guzmán Lopera
According to the DEA, “El Chapo” is the godfather of the drug world. Forbes also holds him in high regard, having named him the most powerful drug lord in the world on their world’s most influential people lists since 2009. The current battle for control of the drug trafficking industry between the Sinaloa Cartel with Los Zetas is one of the bloodiest gang conflicts this world has ever seen.
Bloody conflicts breed bloodthirsty men, and “El Chapo” is a product of this brutal war. He’s escaped prison twice, and, although Mexican authorities have recently re-captured him, “El Chapo” remains just as dangerous. Third time lucky, perhaps?
10. The invisible terrorist, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Much like Boko Haram, ISIS is nothing more than a dangerous gang which seeks power through a vicious strain of ideological, religious fundamentalism. As the leader of the group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi bears the ultimate responsibility for the atrocities carried out by his fanatical followers in the name of God.
What can you say about a group so radical as to make Al-Qaida pull their support from their cause? ISIS and its followers have organised several terrorist attacks throughout the world, in addition to the mass rape, murder and destruction wave with which it’s sweeping parts of Syria and Iraq. Although recent reports of al-Baghdadi’s death have emerged everywhere, independent sources have yet to confirm their veracity.
9. “Katame of Nagoya”, Kenichi Shinoda
In Japan, organised crime can only be associated with one group, the Yakuza. The syndicate has been around for over a hundred years and is incredibly successful, bringing in billions of dollars each year from guns, the sex industry, drugs, extortion, gambling, and construction kickback schemes.
Kenichi Shinoda has been their leader since 2005 and has been in and out of prison numerous times. The current Yakuza boss is also known as “Katame of Nagoya”, which means “one eye of Nagoya” – a reference to his closed right eye. The issue of the Yakuza remains a sensitive topic in Japanese-American relations as the US authorities believe Japan is too permissive of the criminal organisation.
8. Released from prison into the Mafia, Liborio Bellomo
In New York City, there are five powerful organised crime syndicates, the Gambino, Lucchese, Genovese, Bonanno, and Colombo families. Of these, the Genovese family is the most feared, and Liborio Bellomo is the man who keeps their operation running like clockwork. The Genovese family specialises in running offshore casino gambling websites as well as
Although the United States courts found him guilty of extortion in 1997 and money laundering charges in 2001, he is once again working with the Genovese family, after being released in 2008. His status as one of the organisation’s most feared gangsters earns him the respect of his peers and his enemies alike.
7. Presidential terrorist, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir
As the President of Sudan, you wouldn’t expect to be named on a list of the most dangerous gangsters terrorising our world. However, given the latter part of the sentence and Al-Bashir’s position as commander of the Rapid Support Forces AKA the Janjaweed militia, I’m afraid this appearance is entirely deserved, as he’s nothing short of a dangerous gangster.
The Janjaweed are vicious tribal warriors who terrorise the Sudanese population with automatic weapons they shoot from their SUVs. The 10,000-strong militia is Al-Bashir’s private army, killing anyone who stands in his way. He remains untouchable in Sudan.
6. “U Pacchiuni”, Giovanni Motisi
When most people heard the word mafia, the next word to come to them will most likely be Sicilian, and with good reason. The Sicilian Mafia is widely acknowledged as one of the oldest, deadliest crime syndicates in the world, which is why its members get respect everywhere they go.
Hailing from Palermo, Giovanni Motisi is no different. When his uncle Matteo Motisi died, Giovanni took his place as head of the Motisi Mafia clan and boss of the Pagliarelli region for Cosa Nostra. He has been on the most wanted list of the Italian government since 1998, and his current whereabouts are unknown.
5. “No Nose”, John DiFronzo
When a career criminal makes it to 88 years old, you know he’s doing something right. When he makes it to 88 with nicknames like “No Nose” and “Johnny Bananas”, you know he’s probably just that level of crazy you do not want to mess with for your sake and the sake of your children.
As head of the Chicago outfit, DiFronzo has garnered a reputation for a highly temperamental behaviour but has managed to stay out of prison for decades, a fact which has caused some criminals to question how this can be possible, arguing DiFronzo must be feeding information to the authorities.
4. “Ice Eyes”, Rosetta Cutolo
Born in 1937, Rosetta Cutolo is the sister of famous criminal and crime boss Raffaele Cutolo who was the former head of the Nuova Camorra Organizzata (NCO). As Raffaele spent most of his life behind bars, he could only trust Rosetta with the management of the NCO, which she ruled with extreme violence and ostentatious wealth.
After ordering the bombing of a local police station in 1985, a relentless pursuit by the authorities followed, causing Rosetta to turn herself to the police. Although initially sentenced to nine years in prison, Rosetta was later found innocent of all charges after her image as a pleasant old lady helped her get off the hook.
3. “The White Wolf”, Chang An-lo
The United Bamboo Gang is the largest of Taiwan’s three main Triads, which are criminal organisations ruling crime in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Vietnam and China. Chang An-lo was at one point their presumed leader and has since gone into politics. It’s refreshing to see a politician who doesn’t lie about his origins.
Chang An-Lo is a Taiwanese gangster who is now very active in the country’s political life, where he has formed a party which he leads in defending a unified China policy. The party’s headquarters have been raided by the police who suspects the party to be a front for the United Bamboo gang. In spite of their suspicions, nothing was proven, and Chang An-lo is still a free man.
2. “El Mayo”, Ismael Zambada
You don’t get to be the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel unless you’re one incredibly vicious and murderous gangsters in the world. The Sinaloa Carter is one of two cartels currently fighting for dominion of the drug trafficking routes between the United States and Mexico.
In addition to an international cocaine business, “El Mayo” also directs a money laundering centre and a kidnapping operation, as well as the regular killing of rival gangsters from competing cartels. Although their previous leader has been caught due to their network being infiltrated (more on that later), Ismael Zambada remains on the loose as one of the world’s most dangerous criminals.
1. The Russian Godfather, Semion Mogilevich
Described by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as “the most dangerous mobster in the world”, Semion Mogilevich is the boss of the Solntsevskaya Bratva, which essentially makes him the head of all of the organised crime activities carried out by the Russian Mafia. These include, but are not limited to, drug trafficking, trading nuclear material, contract murders, and international prostitution.
Reports indicate Mogilevich has been on good terms with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the 1990s, which perhaps explains why he’s been relatively undisturbed. Russian police arrested him in 2008 on money laundering charges which failed to keep him behind bars, as they got dropped three years later.
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