Luis Navia worked for nearly 25 years as a cocaine trafficker for the deadliest Colombian and Mexican cartels until the law caught up with him in 2000. He is the co-author (with Jesse Fink) of Pure Narco: One Man’s True Story of 25 Years Inside the Cartels.
What We Discuss with Luis Navia:
- Why did Luis Navia — a Georgetown student and the privileged son of an affluent sugar trader — get involved in the illicit international cocaine trade with the most ruthless and infamous Mexican and Colombian drug cartels?
- How did Luis move between 200 to 300 tons of cocaine (roughly worth $10 billion) over the course of 25 years — and live to tell the tale?
- Why did Luis insist on carrying out his business without a weapon — in spite of being regularly surrounded by the perpetrators of unimaginably brutal violence?
- What are the logistics for smuggling massive amounts of cocaine over international borders with limited space and personnel?
- How did Operation Journey, an anti-narcotics effort coordinated across 12 nations and led by the United States and Great Britain, finally put an end to Luis’ lucrative cocaine trafficking career?
- And much more…
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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?
On this episode, we consult the source directly and find out how it all went down in our conversation with Luis Navia, co-author (with Jesse Fink) of Pure Narco: One Man’s True Story of 25 Years Inside the Cartels. Here, we discuss what he did to maintain trust among some of the most paranoid and brutal kingpins in the international drug trade — including Pablo Escobar — and avoid being fed alive to crocodiles during a lapse in this trust. We’ll also learn how he went from being an internationally wanted fugitive moving $10 billion of cocaine to becoming a consultant for the US government’s anti-narcotics trafficking efforts. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Thanks, Luis Navia!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Pure Narco: One Man’s True Story of 25 Years Inside the Cartels by Jesse Fink and Luis Navia | Amazon
- Luis Navia | Penguin Books Australia
- Jesse Fink | Twitter
- The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami
- Georgetown University
- The Mariel Boatlift: How Cold War Politics Drove Thousands of Cubans to Florida in 1980 | History
- ‘Happy in May but Bitter by August’: Cuban Refugees Riot in Central PA In 1980 | Penn Live
- The Epidemiology of Cocaine Use and Abuse | National Institute on Drug Abuse
- The Flow of Drugs and Blood in the Amazon Tri-Border Region | Insight Crime
- Another Day, Another Kilo of Cocaine Found on Alabama Beaches | WKRG
- US Officials Say They Have Stopped Major Colombian Cocaine Network (August 26, 2000) | CNN
- Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs | Cato Institute
- Future Man: Cocaine PSA | Facebook
- The 20 Richest Drug Dealers in History | Money, Inc.
- Narcos | Netflix
- Narcos: Mexico | Netflix
- Javier Peña and Steve Murphy | Taking Down Pablo Escobar | Jordan Harbinger
- Pure Narco: A Lunch with Luis Navia and Steve Murphy | Books & Books
- Drug Legalization?: Time for a Real Debate | Brookings
- Decriminalization Can End Mexico’s Drug Wars, Say Advocates | Foreign Policy
- 13 Firms Linked to Major Fraud in Sugar Trade | The Washington Post
665: Luis Navia | 25 Years Inside the Narco Cartels
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[00:00:08] Luis Navia: It was just instant nonstop, and trying to get that phone call and trying to get annoying. Your time's running out. You're not thinking about, is it going to hurt if the crocodiles bite me or eat me, you're not thinking about that. You don't have time to think about that. If you're thinking about that, then you're not using your time properly. You need to make that goddamn phone call.
[00:00:32] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional drug smuggler, money-laundering expert, or tech mogul. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
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[00:01:22] Today, I chat with one of the most prolific cocaine smugglers of his day, Luis Navia. This one is Goodfellas meets cocaine Cowboys for a quarter century, Navia worked as a high-level transporter for all of the major Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, including Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel. And of course, flooded the United States in Europe with cocaine before his dramatic arrest in Venezuela in 2000 during the 12 nation operation journey. This one is a rare, on-the-ground insider perspective on the international drug trade. No other American cocaine trafficker in history has worked for all of the major Colombian cocaine cartels, Medellín, Cali and North Valley of the '80s and '90s and survived to tell the story. The scale of Navia's trafficking, there are estimates as high as 200 to 300 tons of cocaine, roughly worth $10 billion. And the longevity of his criminal career, which is about 25 years. It really does stand out in terms of careers in the drug business. This episode is not meant to glorify the business of cocaine smuggling or drug trafficking. And as you'll hear from Luis, not only did his product ruin countless lives, but he ruined much of his own in the process.
[00:02:32] Here we go with Luis Navia.
[00:02:37] Most of the time when we hear about drug traffickers, they're born into abject poverty in a village somewhere in El Salvador, Venezuela, Mexico, whatever, you know, in Sinaloa and they grow up as gangsters. But that wasn't your story at all. Tell me how you grew up. It's quite different than most other sort of drug traffickers we would hear of.
[00:02:58] Luis Navia: I grew up in an affluent family. I was born in Cuba. My parents were wealthy people wealthy, in the wealthy sense, very wealthy. My dad was in the sugar business. So we came from Cuba, you know, on a Pan Am airplane. And we stayed at the Key Biscayne Hotel. And I grew up in a very privileged background, private schools, house on Key Biscayne, excellent friends, excellent relationships, top-notch yacht club parties. I grew up, you know, yacht club life, let's say.
[00:03:32] Jordan Harbinger: Is this pre-Castro, or you moved from Cuba to Miami?
[00:03:36] Luis Navia: From Cuba to Miami.
[00:03:37] Jordan Harbinger: Because I was like, you're not that old, man.
[00:03:39] Luis Navia: No, I was five years old when I got to Miami.
[00:03:43] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:03:44] Luis Navia: But my parents were very affluent. My dad had sugar business, had an apartment in New York City at the Sherry-Netherland, then at the St. Regis. I was always exposed to a life of wealth. Then I went to Georgetown University where I met wealthy people from South America. And then I got into this business.
[00:04:04] Jordan Harbinger: How?
[00:04:05] Luis Navia: I met a girl from Aruba, and I thought, you know, we fell in lust immediately and love and lust, but there was a certain attraction, immediate. And then we started going out and she told me she was in the emerald business. Soon enough, she told me no, it's not the emerald business. But what I saw was a lot of money. The first time I ever saw money in this business was up $6.5 million. It's not like I started selling grams, you know, making a thousand bucks. If I wanted to do that, you know, I was working in my, with my dad's sugar business. It was huge.
[00:04:43] So that's part of the reason I stayed in the business because it was with a girl that I was in love with. And it was very high style living and business at a level that was not from the ground. It was at the highest levels. She was one of the highest distributors for the Medellín Cartel. She had excellent connections. I mean, it's not like we were hustling to buy a kilo. They deliver 100, 200 kilos to her on a phone call and we'd fly them out in a Learjet, met them on the other side in San Francisco by very nice, very honest American guys that were involved in the hash trade from years ago, but it wasn't a criminal mentality. The people that did hash and marijuana back then were not into guns and were not into killing. They were not cocaine Cowboys. They were just very intelligent, very off the beaten path, you know, off-the-grid type people that decided to get involved in smuggling.
[00:05:49] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. So you met this girl and she was like, "Hey, by the way, I'm selling emeralds." And you're like, "Wow, you're making even more money than my dad is in the sugar business." And she was like, "By the way, I'm selling cocaine." So you didn't, like you said, you didn't start out going, "Man, I want to sell drugs." You came up affluent and you saw even more money. And it was like, "Well, this is fun. And this is easy. And this is even more money than I grew up with." That's appealing to somebody. How old were you at that time?
[00:06:16] Luis Navia: I was 22.
[00:06:18] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. So you're 22 with some money. And you're with a girl and you're flying around on a jet that she owns or something like that, flying cocaine around.
[00:06:26] Luis Navia: It was leased.
[00:06:27] Jordan Harbinger: That's pretty appealing — leased, yeah. Okay. Fine.
[00:06:29] Luis Navia: The thing is — did I want to get into drugs? No, because drug is like nasty. It's dirty, you know, you got to hang out in the street corner and sell. Like, no, no, no. We never saw the drugs. I mean, we did. We saw, you know, suitcases flash across us. And it's not like we had to cut the stuff or do this, do that. It was just what we live. What happened was the drugs shifted hands. And then we just — in the time of between the shifted hands and we were waiting to get paid the six and a half million, seven, 10 million, we would just have a great life waiting around and just living a beautiful life, go into the best hotels, the best restaurants, you know, shopping really, it's kind of shallow, let's say—
[00:07:15] Jordan Harbinger: Well, you're 22 years old. Everybody's shallow when they're 22, man.
[00:07:18] Luis Navia: Yeah. We were going to the best restaurants. Just money was never an issue — excessive, excessive amounts of money. You know, it was millions and millions in your hand.
[00:07:28] Jordan Harbinger: And it's cash. So you have to spend it, right? I get it. You're 22 money corrupts really easily when you're at that age.
[00:07:33] Luis Navia: It's not like you have to go out and sell every day and hustle every day. You just handed somebody that's a trustworthy player 200 kilos. In a month, he'll come back with six, seven million. By the end of two months, the balance of the 13 million. And before that, you had already given him another a hundred, 150 kilos. So we were always owed 10, 15 million dollars.
[00:07:56] Jordan Harbinger: Unreal.
[00:07:57] Luis Navia: Always, and it's just this money coming in and coming in. And sure, you have to be responsible. You got to make sure you get the money back to Miami back then. Later on, we just had to make sure we got it banked in LA.
[00:08:10] Jordan Harbinger: Banked? So when you say bank, do you mean literally you are walking the money into the bank in LA at this time?
[00:08:15] Luis Navia: No, we never did that. We never would expose our face to bankers or stuff like that. We gave it to Colombians that were in charge of handling the money.
[00:08:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Okay. They laundered the money. Yeah.
[00:08:28] Luis Navia: They would receive suitcases from us in a hotel lobby, in a parked car, somewhere. We hand over the money. And it was never like guns and — wow, we're going to get — no, no, it was just like you had to hand over three, four million dollars. You meet the guys, have it in the trunk of a car. You'd hand over the keys in the lobby of a hotel. They take the car and you would never want to see that car. It's a throwaway. I don't know what they did with it, but very non-criminal-activity type stuff. No guns. Nobody yelled at nobody. Nobody threatened nobody. Nobody got tied up and their knees got drilled, nothing.
[00:09:09] Jordan Harbinger: Nothing.
[00:09:10] Luis Navia: And she was very well-respected because she was the goose that laid the golden eggs. So it was very, you know, nonchalant, great living.
[00:09:21] Jordan Harbinger: And then you go from this to like, I would imagine probably the most successful cocaine smuggler in US history. I mean, there's a jump here and there's a story here.
[00:09:32] Luis Navia: Oh, I don't think so.
[00:09:34] Jordan Harbinger: No?
[00:09:34] Luis Navia: I think, probably the Italian mafia did more than I did.
[00:09:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, I should say single smuggler, like as a single guy — I think, yeah, the whole mafia, sure, but as a guy with a plane or whatever it was—
[00:09:46] Luis Navia: At that time, I was doing quite a bit, yes.
[00:09:48] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, Jesse Fink, the guy who introduced us, the guy who wrote your book, he's pretty sure that you have single-handedly smuggled a certain amount — and we'll get into what that is. And that's more than anybody else single-handedly did. Whole organizations, yeah, I'm sure they have you beat, but that's kind of like saying you got beat in basketball by the entire LA Lakers. We're not just talking about one player, you're talking about the whole team.
[00:10:11] So when you started, did you have a plan? Like, "All right, I'm going to make 10 million bucks. I'm going to buy a couple of houses and I'm getting the hell out of this business." Did you have some kind of plan like that?
[00:10:20] Luis Navia: Initially, no. I fell into it. I was living in love and lust relationship. I did love this girl. You know, we were together-together, and I was just living life to the fullest every day, and I had a life with her. But was I planning? "Well, let's see. We're going to make a million dollars. Let's buy those apartment buildings over there." No, I was just like living life. Later on, when I broke up with her or she broke up with me, I started thinking, maybe I should buy a couple of these old hotels on Miami Beach. Hotels on South Beach back when the Mariel Boatlift came — a hotel that goes for 80 million today was going for 650,000 to 450,000 back then.
[00:11:07] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. And the Mariel Boatlift that's when a lot of the Cubans came to the United States?
[00:11:12] Luis Navia: Yes. And then South Beach was flooded with the homeless Cubans and a lot of nasty people came out of that boatlift and a lot of very prominent people that today are very prominent people did very well for themselves also came on that boatlift.
[00:11:29] But you know, the image that boatlift has is because Fidel did let loose a bunch of insane asylums and emptied out his jails and sent them over here. And we did deal with a criminal element that was never seen before. Such a criminal element, that in the BOP, the bureau of prisons, people from Mariel, there's a category, special category for it because for the first time in the history of the federal system, these Mariel Cubans that were sent to Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, they took over the penitentiary. They created a huge riot. They burned large part of the place, held the guards hostage. These were violent, nasty, crazy criminal people.
[00:12:13] They did the same thing in Talladega. They took over the whole place, took over the guards, held them hostage across cities. You know, you can Google it — federal riots, Mariel Cubans in prison system. So these guys that were so out of control that not even inmates ever saw creatures like this. There are certain laws in prison that you will abide by certain respect. You know don't go to the bathroom and the showers, you don't throw the feces to each other. These guys violated everything. They became total thorn in the side for the federal system. That's what was in Miami at that time. Miami was faced with a large number of these criminal crazy elements that came from Cuba.
[00:13:03] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me about your first cocaine deal. So you met this girl and she probably, I guess, handheld you through some of the initial stages of this. Like you said, you weren't buying a couple grams from a dealer and you're like, "I think I can make a business out of this." You know, you got connected to the cartels essentially right away.
[00:13:20] Luis Navia: Immediately, yes.
[00:13:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And when she broke up with you, you kept all the connections. She wasn't like, "Don't deal with this guy, he's my competition, we're not together anymore." She was just like, go off and start your own business.
[00:13:29] Luis Navia: She didn't mind at all. As a matter of fact, she said, "If you're going to continue might as well continue with my connections that are proven, decent. I don't want you dealing with half a kilo or a kilo or five kilos down in Miami and getting your head blown off—"
[00:13:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:13:44] Luis Navia: "—or getting kidnapped and killed. If you're going to continue, I mean, there's enough for everybody. You can continue with my supply sources too." She turned me on to the people that were giving her the merchandise. And since I was a decent, honest guy that they felt comfortable with, they knew I wasn't going to rip them off, they started giving me 100, 150, 200 kilos they used to get her. And on the receiving end, I had the people that could handle that weight. So your goodwill goes through the roof. She got involved with another boyfriend and that boyfriend was well off on his own and he didn't want her to continue working. So also that played into her saying, "You know, you take over. I'm going to be a housewife for a while." He was a smuggler himself.
[00:14:30] Jordan Harbinger: Oh.
[00:14:30] Luis Navia: He didn't want her to work. And it makes sense. You know—
[00:14:33] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:14:34] Luis Navia: —you don't want your wife involved in something that could get her in trouble.
[00:14:37] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:14:37] Luis Navia: They had a couple of kids. So I ran with that. And from the clients that I inherited from her and with those sources of supply that I also inherited from her, I expanded my network, then started selling down in LA and Chicago and New York. I stayed away from Miami. I didn't want to work in Miami. I kind of lived here part time, so I didn't want to work here.
[00:15:04] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, okay. Interesting that you kept it away from that. Where did you smuggle the drugs from? I mean, we were talking pre-show and you asked me how my trip to the Amazon jungle was. And I said, "Well, you might have a little firsthand knowledge of how my trip to the Amazon jungle was." Where were you taking the drugs from primarily?
[00:15:22] Luis Navia: Actually, our first smuggle — when I was in Miami with her, I was just receiving and distributing.
[00:15:29] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:15:29] Luis Navia: I wasn't smuggling.
[00:15:30] Jordan Harbinger: Gotcha.
[00:15:31] Luis Navia: When I decided to smuggle, the first smuggle we ever did, we bought the paste down in Leticia, which is down in the Colombian Amazon. It's a little peninsula so the tip is Leticia. That was a big center for receiving paste and then taking it up to Colombia and processing it into cocaine. So the first smuggle we ever did, we bought a hundred kilos down in Leticia. We smuggled that up to Miami. But then after that, I bought a Merlin and then I bought two Conquests.
[00:16:04] Jordan Harbinger: These are jets or airplanes?
[00:16:05] Luis Navia: Turboprops.
[00:16:06] Jordan Harbinger: Turboprops. Okay.
[00:16:07] Luis Navia: Yeah. You know, I used the contract with the source's supply. They had their runways down there. I would come in and land a load up and leave. And we would usually work out of the coast, out of Monteria, out of Pereira, somewhere not too south of Colombia, because we needed to make up the ground flying up the Mexico or airdropping in The Bahamas — so relatively conscious of gas consumption.
[00:16:38] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Why did you need three planes? You're flying the plane, right? You can only fly one at a time.
[00:16:41] Luis Navia: No, no, no.
[00:16:42] Jordan Harbinger: You weren't flying it. Okay.
[00:16:43] Luis Navia: Oh no, no, no, no. Those were planes that I owned and I had different pilots because we had different routes. At one time, I could have had five, six, seven routes. Sometimes I had three of my own planes and lease three more.
[00:16:57] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:16:58] Luis Navia: And I used to lease a Cheyenne four, a Cheyenne two, Cheyenne three turbo commanders. A lot of times I leased turbo commanders to go to Mexico and my own planes, which were the Conquests I used to these to go to Mexico and to airdrop in The Bahamas. It's a very good plane to airdrop with. The Merlin, I used to this for landing. I used to never airdrop with the Merlin.
[00:17:25] Jordan Harbinger: When you say airdrop, is it what it sounds like where you're dropping things while you're still flying? Just packages out the back.
[00:17:30] Luis Navia: Yes. You slow down. You slow the plane down. You come down close to the water, opened the back door. You start kicking out those bales.
[00:17:40] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. If someone else is flying the plane who's kicking out the bales or are you like, "Hey, this thing will go straight for a while"?
[00:17:46] Luis Navia: No. There's a kicker.
[00:17:47] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. That makes more sense.
[00:17:49] Luis Navia: There's a pilot. There's a co-pilot. There's a kicker in the back.
[00:17:53] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. And they just land what? In the water or the jungle?
[00:17:56] Luis Navia: No, they don't land. You have to calculate it. So—
[00:17:59] Jordan Harbinger: No, no. The bales, the bales land.
[00:18:01] Luis Navia: Oh, the bales land in the water. Yes.
[00:18:03] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:18:03] Luis Navia: They float. They float. You put little lights on them, little—
[00:18:06] Jordan Harbinger: Glow sticks.
[00:18:07] Luis Navia: Glow sticks, you crack them, throw them, crack them, throw them. That's usually done at night, obviously.
[00:18:13] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. And so someone's out there, like in a boat, just going around to the little glow sticks and trying to find them. Man, they better hope you do a good job at the airdrop then or those could be anywhere.
[00:18:22] Luis Navia: Yes. You need to wrap it the right way. So they're waterproof. They float. You know, usually, you have to coordinate it because the people that you're dropping to our veteran smugglers and the pilot is a veteran bush pilot. That's what we call them, bush pilots, off-the-radar type pilots. And they know what they're doing.
[00:18:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. This is before — think about this though, like I'm wrapping my head around. This is before GPS. You don't have cell phones and you can't just — you make these arrangements days, weeks before, and you say, "All right, be in the water with a boat outside of Leticia or whatever it is or outside the Aruba, whatever, in the water. And we're going to be at some point that night." So they're waiting a few hours for you, but there's still coordination that without Internet, without GPS, without cell phones, you still had to make these kinds of pretty precise calculations and arrangements for them to get your stuff.
[00:19:21] Luis Navia: Yes. The plane had a LORAN. We use two-way radios. Back then, there weren't any cellular phones, but two-way radios — so they did get to the point.
[00:19:32] Jordan Harbinger: It's still pretty amazing because I think it would be hard to do that even now with GPS and something that automatically dumps the bales out the back at the exact right spot. I mean, you're looking at a map and that guy has to like kick these bales out as fast as humanly possible. So they're not spread out over 40 miles, right?
[00:19:47] Luis Navia: Yeah. And you're in a cramped space. You're not in a C-130.
[00:19:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:19:51] Luis Navia: You're in a small turboprop. And on top of that, you have the merchandise plus you have the bladder or the timbales, the canisters where you carry the gas. Because remember, the plane itself doesn't have enough gas. You have to rig the tubing, the gas tubing of the plane in a certain way. So you can start feeding it gas from inside because you need to take on board the coal, the extra fuel, plus the fuel in the wings of the plane and the normal gas tanks.
[00:20:24] Jordan Harbinger: So you kind of rigged the plane so that you can refuel it in flight, by carrying extra gas — like you extend—
[00:20:30] Luis Navia: Exactly.
[00:20:31] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Wow. That sounds dangerous.
[00:20:34] Luis Navia: Water weighs more than gas. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon. Gas is seven and a half pounds per gallon, more or less seven pounds per gallon.
[00:20:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:20:43] Luis Navia: Gas is lighter than water, but that's a big weight.
[00:20:48] Jordan Harbinger: That's a lot of weight. Yeah. That's a lot of weight in a turboprop and then you kick a bunch of it out and then you're more fuel efficient after that, but still that's super freaking dangerous.
[00:20:56] Luis Navia: Yeah. And when you go down the plane consumes more gas because the lower you are, it consumes a massive amount of gas as opposed to when you're a high altitude. You have to take all that into account because you're going from point A to point B, but you're not landing. You're just circling, airdropping and coming back.
[00:21:15] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god.
[00:21:16] Luis Navia: There's been so many plane accidents and I lost my partner on an airdrop.
[00:21:21] Jordan Harbinger: Aah.
[00:21:22] Luis Navia: They got killed. Everybody on the plane got killed.
[00:21:25] Jordan Harbinger: Because he crashed.
[00:21:26] Luis Navia: Yeah. We received that plane near Pereira and when it came in from Venezuela, the Venezuelan pilots that were in charge of their plane in Venezuela — these guys are, they used to be our Air Force army for Venezuelan Air Force, whatever that means, but they landed in Pereira, and they told us, "The plane has certain reports. We don't suggest doing this trip." Because they get off and they go to a hotel while the bush pilots hop on. We raised their call letters, change the call letters and proceed with our smuggling mission. They said, "We do not suggest you go forward. We can go back to Venezuela, but we do not think the plane is in conditions to do an airdrop." It's different when you're asking the plane to do things up and beyond what the manual says.
[00:22:20] Jordan Harbinger: So they just thought this is an old plane. That's not been maintained well. It's probably not going to make it.
[00:22:25] Luis Navia: No, it wasn't an old plane, but it was due for checkups that weren't done.
[00:22:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course.
[00:22:30] Luis Navia: And my partner back then, Rene, that was part of his job, taking care of the plane. I bought the plane, but I handed it over to him as let's say, chief operating officer. He was on the strip with me and the pilot did not get off. He said, "I'll do it." I guess he needed the money. The co-pilot said, "I'm not going," the bush co-pilot, not the Venezuelan co-pilot, they were off the plane. The co-pilot got off since Renee knew something about flying because he owned an airplane, a sales center here in South Florida. He hopped on his co-pilot. When he hopped on, I almost topped on too. I wanted to go along just for the ride. And that's when Marulo told me, "What the hell are you doing up there? Get off." I said, "No, I'm going with Rene." He says, "If something happens, who's going to pay me for the merchandise?" Sure enough, when they got at the Dog Rocks, which is where we were airdropping right off the Florida Keys in The Bahamas, in the middle there, they went down. They lost power in one engine and they just cartwheeled right into the ocean. Everybody died.
[00:23:35] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:23:36] Luis Navia: I would have been on that plane Marulo saved my life.
[00:23:40] Jordan Harbinger: Who's Marulo?
[00:23:41] Luis Navia: The source of supply.
[00:23:43] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, okay.
[00:23:43] Luis Navia: The guy that we worked with that I gave us the merchandise. He saved my life.
[00:23:48] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. I mean, you've had a lot of close calls. I assume, at some point, though, you are landing in the jungle — going back to what you were saying, pre-show, you had to sleep over in the middle of nowhere sometimes, literally in the Amazon. And that's kind of what I was doing and they would say, "Hey, don't leave the hotel ground. Don't walk out there at night, you know, unless you're with a guide and a light and all this stuff, because there's a lot of stuff out in the jungle and we don't necessarily know what all is out there, but you don't want it to find you before you see it with your headlamp, basically."
[00:24:18] Luis Navia: There's everything out there. I mean, it's ecotourism, but you go out on your own, like where we were a lot of places where people didn't hang out, there were no hotels. It was in the middle of nowhere. That's why we were smuggling there. We build a runway in the middle of nowhere, like in Belize, out in Western Belize, we worked there. We had a runway. You had to take turns. You had to go with somebody. You had to be very careful. You just can't, "Hey, I need to take a piss," and walk out. You know, a jaguar will snap you up. There's jaguars out there. You hear the monkeys, you hear everything, you know, all kinds of snakes. I mean, you got to really be aware of your surroundings. You're not in a luxury hotel, just surrounded by nature. You're out in the middle of nowhere in the jungle. God forbid, if something happens, you die. There's no hospital. There's nothing.
[00:25:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:13] Luis Navia: But that's why we were there. Talking about ecotourism, I've been in some really ecotouristic places where nobody's been.
[00:25:21] Jordan Harbinger: I bet. You've said that smuggling is the most important part of the drug business. Because of course, if you can't smuggle, there's nothing people can sell and the producers don't make money either. Is one of the reasons that you were so in demand is because you — it seems like you had a pretty good system, right? With the planes. Did you only smuggle by plane?
[00:25:40] Luis Navia: No, we did also fast boats.
[00:25:43] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:25:44] Luis Navia: Yeah, we did fast boats. We got to a point where we had to stop the planes because of the radars. Then, we started going by water, but mostly most of our smuggles were airdrops, the boats and the boats in The Bahamas, and the boats in The Bahamas to Miami by boat. So it was by air to The Bahamas, airdrop, and by boat to Miami. When Mexico came into the picture, we started airdropping off Cozumel, the island of Cozumel, Mexico, and boats into the mainland, into Cancún, for example, but then we just started going a hundred percent by water. So we would go from the northern coast of Colombia, in Necoclí, in an area of Urabá, in Necoclí, all the way to Cancún, Mexico. We refueled at Banco Serranilla, you know, north of San Andrés. That's a long haul.
[00:26:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:44] Luis Navia: We were doing it in these 32-foot boats that were like half submerged. I mean, they were very low, low to the water — very successful. We did a lot of trips.
[00:26:56] Jordan Harbinger: How many kilos at a time are you talking about?
[00:26:58] Luis Navia: We would do 1,200 up to 1,600 kilos on a boatload.
[00:27:03] Jordan Harbinger: What's the value of that each load? What kind of money are we talking about here?
[00:27:07] Luis Navia: Let's say 1600 kilos, when they get to Mexico back then, they worked 5,000. That's nine million dollars. When they get to the US, they were selling at 15, 20 back then. I mean, you're talking, you know, $30 million when they get to the US. That's very low pricing. That was in the early '90s or stuff. There was a time that there was so much coke that the price went down. Each load is at least 30 to $50 million.
[00:27:40] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:27:41] Luis Navia: And I mean, with one friend, we did 44 trips. That's 60,000 kilos.
[00:27:47] Jordan Harbinger: Over what period of time?
[00:27:49] Luis Navia: That was '92, '93, '94. '95.
[00:27:58] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Luis Navia. We'll be right back.
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[00:30:48] Now back to Luis Navia.
[00:30:51] Over a period of years, yeah, that's a hell of a lot of money. And are you then living a normal family life at this point? Because I know you eventually married and had kids. Like, are you living essentially a normal-ish family life while transporting hundreds of millions of dollars in cocaine? Was it like fly a load from Peru to Miami, be home in time for dinner?
[00:31:10] Luis Navia: Yes. I did have a normal family life and I had a normal business and I go to work. At 12:30, I go home for lunch. We would have lunch and maybe take a little siesta, go back to work at 4:30, finish work at 7:30. I had a coffee operation in Cancún. I have a latex rubber glove operation in Mexico City. I had the macadamia plantations in Mexico and in Costa Rica. And I was doing my legal business and having a normal family life. And at the same time, we were bringing in thousands and thousands of kilos through Cancún every week.
[00:31:51] Jordan Harbinger: Did your family know anything about this? They probably not, right? I mean, I assume you didn't share.
[00:31:56] Luis Navia: Not the details. You know, my wife and I were close, of course. She knew what I was involved in. She didn't know the specifics of specifics, but obviously she knew what I did. Because when I met her in Colombia, you know, it was almost, I was always doing it with a nice group of people. Back then, it was more acceptable than now. I was always dealing with a nice group of people. And it wasn't the craziness that you hear today. You know, the people I dealt with were my friends. It's not what I did. It's how long I did it for. That's the thing I did it for 25 years.
[00:32:33] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god.
[00:32:34] Luis Navia: Nonstop.
[00:32:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's a full career.
[00:32:38] Luis Navia: It never got smaller. You know, I started with nine ounces. The first nine ounces I ever sold was in Georgetown, which I should have been studying. I should have never gotten involved in selling out. I mean, and I just did it so we could party and you know for the hell of it. But until I got caught, which when I got caught in the year 2000, I had 25 tons, which is 25,000 kilos. That was the seizure. You're not talking conspiracy here. You're talking actual merchandise on the ground that was seized — 25,000 kilos.
[00:33:13] Jordan Harbinger: What is the value of a shipment like that?
[00:33:15] Luis Navia: A billion.
[00:33:16] Jordan Harbinger: A billion dollars — that's a lot of cocaine.
[00:33:20] Luis Navia: Yeah.
[00:33:20] Jordan Harbinger: We'll get to that in a bit because that's a hell of a lot — I mean, that's got to be one of the largest seizures ever.
[00:33:26] Luis Navia: Yeah. And at that point, it was the largest and that was going to Europe where we were getting a good chunk of change for that.
[00:33:34] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Wow.
[00:33:35] Luis Navia: Most of that merchandise was bound for Italy and Spain. Some of it was making its way to England also through some of our sources.
[00:33:43] Jordan Harbinger: Goodness. You must have had a lot of contingency plans and things like this, right? Did you carry like 10 grand on your person at all times? I mean—
[00:33:52] Luis Navia: That's like 10 grand, it's like—
[00:33:54] Jordan Harbinger: A hundred grand — I mean, what did you think you would need to escape?
[00:33:57] Luis Navia: No. A hundred grand is something you keep in a shoebox or something or something you have in your closet for whatever. Our contingency plans — we lost touch with reality. While I was in Venezuela, I was talking to my Greek partner. We were going to refinance. We had ships. So I said, it's no good to have these ships cashed out and paid for it. We should finance it and use some of that money for some of our proceeds from our earnings, take 50 million and try to corner the Central American coffee market. And that's what we were trying to do when I got back to Europe.
[00:34:35] Your mind is off the charts. It's not dealing with reality. Instead of saying, "I'm going to retire. I got two kids. I got my wife and see if we can get together. Maybe settle down," I'm sitting here doing massive amounts of cocaine via freighters because we would take 5,000 to 6,000 kilos on each freighter. And instead of saying, "Let's settle down, let me—" we're trying to corner the coffee market with some Swiss banks. I mean, the guys are nuts. And that's the way I thought, you know when you stop thinking small on anything.
[00:35:12] Jordan Harbinger: Were you worried at all about getting popped by police? I mean, did you have like emergency cash on your person or gold or anything like that? Or multiple identities maybe?
[00:35:23] Luis Navia: Oh, multiple identities, yes. Cash — I mean, when I got arrested, probably, you know, I had a checking account with maybe 900,000 in it. You always have $25,000-$30,000 available, but there's just so much you can carry on you and you don't use credit cards. What credit cards you do have? You have it under a false name. And I probably have more spending power now as a legal individual, because when you're a fugitive, you're spending power is what you have on you or what you have access to. You take a taxi to a stash apartment, then you grab some cash, but while you're standing there and you don't have access to that taxi to get to that stash house — you don't have an American Express Gold Card with $100,000-spending limit. In that sense, you're a little limited. Although, you know, I had a checking account with 900,000 — well, yeah, maybe I did have more spending power.
[00:36:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. Than most people, I would say 900,000 in a checking account. One, it's just a bad place to keep $900,000 because there's no interest on it, but you didn't care. But either way back in the '90s, not a whole lot of people at 900 grand in a checking account. I heard that you always used the same initials on your false identities because you had monogrammed shirts. Is that true?
[00:36:43] Luis Navia: Yes. I figured I never got rid of the shirts and I figured I never want to be in a situation where, "Ah sh*t, I'm going through an airport and I've got one of these shirts on I should have—" so just in case I just had the same initials.
[00:36:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:36:58] Luis Navia: Coming up to our customs guy as George Perez and it says LN on your shirt, he may get a little spiffy to that.
[00:37:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Suspicious, yeah, for sure. Yeah, that's good thinking, I suppose, to keep that at least congruent there. So '80s, Miami cocaine dealing, partying — like paint this picture for us because I know Cubans and Colombians are in the business, but it wasn't exactly a marriage made in heaven for those two groups. There was a lot of like assassins coming in by boat to say the least.
[00:37:30] Luis Navia: Yes. At first, the Cubans had Miami and they had the connections to New York and Chicago and in Miami. And the Colombians would supply the coke to the Cubans. Remember, you're dealing with cocaine, the marijuana people were a little more easy to deal with, more honorable. Let's say, when you're dealing with cocaine, now you got the lowest of the Colombians with the lowest of the Cubans. So they're going to end up bad people will end up doing some bad things. You got to be nuts to think that bad people will not do bad things. So it got into a turf war over here.
[00:38:10] Eventually, the Colombians took over. The Colombians took over the Miami area. Then they took over in New York, took over in Chicago, and they dominated the distribution of cocaine in the United States. That changed when everybody started getting busted, the US started nailing all the Colombian money routes and they handed it over to the Mexicans.
[00:38:37] Now, distribution of cocaine in the United States is in the hands of the Mexicans. The Colombians are no part of it. I'm not saying there aren't some Colombian groups importing some stuff through The Bahamas or through Haiti or Santo Domingo, but most of the cocaine goes to Mexico. Mexicans will buy from Colombians, from Peruvians, from Ecuador — no, mostly Peru, Colombia, although Ecuador's a big trampoline now, but—
[00:39:08] Jordan Harbinger: What do you mean by trampoline?
[00:39:10] Luis Navia: A point of exit, an exit point. The Mexicans will have their Colombian sources deliver the cocaine in Ecuador. And from Ecuador, the Mexicans will take it to Europe, Asia, Mexico. The Mexicans have grown immensely. They're the biggest money group in the business nowadays. They've grown exponentially. They control the US distribution. Colombians don't really want to get involved in the US. They've already been through that. Colombians are taking it to more profitable markets like China, India, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, and Europe. Those are the Colombian markets. But Mexicans have access to these markets. They're now using Ecuador as an exit point. They're huge. The Mexicans are huge. Mexicans have more money than the Colombians, probably.
[00:40:05] Jordan Harbinger: My experience sort of begins and ends with watching Narcos and reading books, like the one that you have, but yeah, that's their common refrain. And so when you're partying in Miami and enjoying kind of this high life, I assume you're getting high on your own supply, right? You're sort of breaking one of the commandments, which is if you've got all this money and you've got all this coke and you're partying all the time, you're probably using a little bit of it, right?
[00:40:28] Luis Navia: Yes, unfortunately. And it was a big mistake. I got into the lifestyle of when you go out and you drank and you party, I used to use a little bit of my own supply. At least, it was very good because it would have been very bad, maybe I would have died of an overdose. That's why I think it should be legalized. It's the only way to control the health factor. And on top of that, it's been proven that this drug work has been a total failure. The attitude towards cocaine has been a total failure, as far as having a drug overdose. That it's a bad drug. It's a very bad drug but keep your enemies closer.
[00:41:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I definitely want to talk more about your suggestions and how you feel about that in a bit. I know some of the ways you've spent money, this is from the book, $50,000 at a hotel — this might be a little embarrassing — $45,000 for hookers over three days. Okay. What kind of hookers are we talking about where it's $15,000 a day? I mean, is this just a lot of different hookers or are they extreme — you know, how do you even spend 45 grand on hookers?
[00:41:35] Luis Navia: I mean, it's crazy. It's a crazy lifestyle. Number one, you don't party by yourself.
[00:41:39] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:41:40] Luis Navia: You're not a maniac. You're not sitting there snorting by yourself. You always have an entourage of people with you. When the party starts, like, when I used to go to LA with Rene, we used to rent two or three connecting suites when they had just built a Four Seasons or at the Beverly Wilshire or at the Beverly Hills Hotel, take a couple of the cabanas out back. And we've got six, seven guys, everybody partying, champagne, coke, you know, 15, 20 hookers coming in or out. And you know, it's not like one. It's like animal house. It's like fraternity, it's a frat house party, but with expensive tastes and at expensive places. We overdid it.
[00:42:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I would say so. Once you accidentally threw out $60,000 in a trash chute, that's a bummer, but I guess you probably didn't care at the time.
[00:42:35] Luis Navia: Yeah. I just said, well, you know, goes along with the trade, you know?
[00:42:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You didn't think I should walk downstairs and get that $60,000? You just said no?
[00:42:43] Luis Navia: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Are you crazy walking down to a trash chute? Back then you had no concept of 60,000. Like if you threw a shoebox out, okay, it's a shoebox. It had some shoes in it. Okay, well, we're going to another pair. This had 60,000. We thought it was the fake shoebox because we had received a bunch of money. And those about 60,000-45,000 — I don't remember it — in false bills. And instead of giving those out, you want to just take them out. We confuse the good box with bad box or something like that, but they went down the trash chute.
[00:43:18] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god. I mean, that's a pretty good annual salary for somebody here in the United States in 2022, right? And this is like in the '90s.
[00:43:27] Luis Navia: No, that was 1985.
[00:43:30] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh. So yeah, it's at least around twice that in today's money. Yeah. That's like a lawyer's annual salary went down to trash chute.
[00:43:38] Luis Navia: Crazy.
[00:43:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:43:39] Luis Navia: That's crazy. And everything about that was crazy. And it was over the top. Was it fun? Yes. It was fun. Was it irresponsible? Totally. We were breaking the law. Yes, but it was, you know, cat-mouse.
[00:43:53] Jordan Harbinger: What happens if you lose a load of cocaine? You know what happens when you — it's like, "Hey, look, the plane went down or we kicked these bales out in a bunch of them, we don't know where the hell they went.
[00:44:05] Luis Navia: It's happened.
[00:44:06] Jordan Harbinger: I'm sure
[00:44:07] Luis Navia: I've lost loads and I paid for them. All that does is increase your goodwill and they'll give you more. It's just like a bank. You know, you pay him back, you lose this, but you got — they lend you more. My goodwill was through the roof. One time with Iván Urdinola, which he was a very delicate, violent, volatile guy. He never lost. Even if there was a loss, he wouldn't take it. And we did a load with him and I went down to his farm and I wrapped, I think it was about a thousand kilos, 800 kilos. And I wrapped them for an airdrop. We were scheduled to go on X day and it was postponed. So I told Ivan, "Iván, I'm going to leave. The merchandise stays there, and make sure you don't use that and send that to Mexico." But when I send my pilot to pick it up and he gets handed the wrong packaging.
[00:45:01] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:45:01] Luis Navia: Sure enough, that happened. I sent my plane and I asked him, "Hey, are you sure? You'd given them what I wrapped, what we wrapped?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Sure enough, we airdropped that and that smashed all over the ocean.
[00:45:16] Jordan Harbinger: Ooh.
[00:45:17] Luis Navia: We had to pick it up and we delivered to their people here in Miami buckets with kilos broken with seawater and coke, just to prove to them — people always said, "You know, this is it." They're going to kill Luis because Iván, he doesn't care. If he by mistake gave it to the wrong people, it's still your problem.
[00:45:39] Jordan Harbinger: Uh-huh.
[00:45:39] Luis Navia: If this happened, it's your problem. If that happened, it's your problem. It's always your problem. And he actually said, "You know, I'll swallow it." I'm sure he made somebody else pay for it, but he didn't go after me. And everybody said, "That's unbelievable." He comes out in Narcos. You can see him in Narcos and a couple of the — I don't know — the Colombian version, but a couple of the shows Iván is there. And he's very, well-known, very well-known guy for his violence as volatile. And yet with me, first day, I met him, he gave me an M535, first day I met him. I met him at his dealership, car dealership. He talked really fast. He gave me a car.
[00:46:20] Jordan Harbinger: No, he talked really fast. He probably uses a lot of cocaine, right? So of course, he talked really fast.
[00:46:25] Luis Navia: No, not really. Not really. You know, these guys kept it pretty cool. They were just known for their violence. They killed a lot of people. First day I met him, he gave me a hundred-thousand-dollar car.
[00:46:37] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:46:38] Luis Navia: That's what it cost back then in Colombia, an M535 Alpena gearbox, crazy car. I got along with him just fine. I have a knack for getting along with some real, crazy people. I don't know why. I've always had a knack to get along with some real, crazy volatile people. They liked me and I liked them. I don't know opposites attract.
[00:47:02] Jordan Harbinger: Huh?
[00:47:03] Luis Navia: I never carried a gun. Why should I? If I'm hanging out with Iván, he's got enough guns.
[00:47:09] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Yeah. You'd said you survived because you were nonviolent and everyone knew it. And you said your personality was your sword. And on the show, we talk a lot about the value of reputation, how your reputation can be like an insurance policy alongside your network. And here, it's kind of literally working for you in that respect because you did have some very close calls with crazy people like Iván who didn't kill you, in part, because they knew you were never going to be a physical threat, right?
[00:47:38] Luis Navia: No. And they like that about me. They liked the part that my craziness wasn't in being violent or vicious. My craziness wasn't just being one crazy son of a bitch smuggler. That was good. They didn't want me to be violent. They just wanted for me to be creative and good at what I did. Schmooze the right people at the border, talked to the right people to do this and do that, have a nice network — that's what they wanted me to do. They liked me. They liked my honesty. He's so honest. He tells you up-front, "You know, I don't carry a gun." The worst thing you can do is lie. These people are the alpha predators.
[00:48:19] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:48:19] Luis Navia: They are the alpha predators. You can't lie to these people. They have a sense of smell. They'll see you coming a mile away. If you're a killer, they know you're a killer. That's one-on-one. But if you're not, you give a bullsh*t that you're a killer, they'll smell you out. Then you're being dishonest.
[00:48:37] So from day one, I told him, "Listen, I don't know nothing about guns. I don't own a gun. I don't know—" I've been around the biggest killers and the biggest criminals that you can imagine as friends. And I treat them with respect because that's their business and that's what they do. And that's fine. They're hitmen, but they're my friends and I treat them with respect. I don't look down on that and I'll invite them to have dinner at my dinner table and I will break bread with them because they are my friends. If they're killers, that's between them and God or them and whoever they want, but they are my friends. And they really say, "You come from such a high class, born with a golden spoon in your mouth, went to college and yet you're so humble. You're here with us hanging out with us and you treat us with—" I've invited them to dinner at my parents' house. I'm not telling my parents who they were—
[00:49:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I would imagine.
[00:49:33] Luis Navia: But I felt bad that they had nowhere to go on Easter Sunday, for example. So I said, "Hey, this is a family day, your family's in Colombia, you know, come and share." And they told my parents who they were.
[00:49:46] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. "He's an exchange student from Colombia." Yeah.
[00:49:49] Luis Navia: Yeah. Exchange student from Venezuela. You don't want to say Colombia, but they realized it. This guy is like he doesn't judge you. And they're used to getting judged all the time. They see that.
[00:50:01] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:50:01] Luis Navia: They smell that. So like Iván, I'm not going to bullsh*t Iván. He is the alpha predator. "Iván, I lost your load, man. You f*cked up." What do you mean? Nobody says that to Ivan. He loved me for it and to this day. I'm still alive.
[00:50:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:19] Luis Navia: Unbelievable.
[00:50:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:21] Luis Navia: For that to happen with Iván Urdinola and being alive, it's like unheard.
[00:50:27] Jordan Harbinger: You told me you're more likely to get killed for losing 50 kilos than 50,000 kilos. Why is this? Is it like a bank too big to fail and they want you to owe them versus just being pissed off?
[00:50:38] Luis Navia: No, ask Trump, ask Trump. It's the old thing you're too big to fail. Even Trump said, "You know, my bankruptcy is so huge." And where was it? Atlantic City that instead of letting them go under, they lent them more money. So basically, when you do 5,000 kilos, if they kill you, they lose the 5,000 kilos. You know you lose them, not if you steal them.
[00:51:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:51:05] Luis Navia: Steal them, you're going to die anyway. But if they feel you're still good and your business is still active and your business, then go under, they'll give you 5,000 more kilos or 10,000 kilos, so you can make up what you lost. 50 kilos, you know, they may kill you because you're getting 50 kilos from a broker who got it from a middle man who got it from a distributor who got it from, you know, blah, blah, blah. But when you're dealing directly with the source of supply that has hundreds and thousands of kilos, the relationship is a little different.
[00:51:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
[00:51:38] Luis Navia: You're too big to fail and they depend on you to move 20,000-30,000 kilos a year. So, you know, you don't want to lose that relationship.
[00:51:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That makes sense. You said that coke was so pure, you only do bumps. So when we see them do whole big lines on Narcos and stuff, that's nonsense, right? Because the line of really pure coke would take you to the moon.
[00:51:59] Luis Navia: A lot of people did lines. I've seen people do lines, but that was the early eighties when some of the stuff wasn't that good and a lot of it was cut, but still I've seen people do lines of pure coke. It's all what your body gets used to. I always got my body used to just, you know, a bump and a bump. Some people got used to lines and if their body didn't take a whole hit of line, but pure coke is not meant to be done in lines. When we were in Colombia with our friends and we were partying and stuff, we'd have a bag and we just take a spoon and dip it and boom, boom, you bump it. You don't do lines.
[00:52:40] Jordan Harbinger: So for people that don't know how to do cocaine, a bump is when you dip a little, I don't know, like a little metal spoon and/or fork or something like that into a bag and you get like a pinky nail worth of it in your nose instead of a whole big line, like you see on TV or in the movies, or depending on where you went to college on a table. How accurate are shows like Narcos and Narcos: Mexico? I mean, a lot of the stories and the people are embellished, but did you see that? Would you say like, "Hey, this is fairly accurate"?
[00:53:08] Luis Navia: Yeah, it is. It is accurate, you know, Amado Carrillo, El Güero Palma, El Chapo, the Arellano brothers. They're pretty accurate. Yeah, the Arellano brothers had huge parties in Tijuana. They wore that kind of clothing, those colorful shirts—
[00:53:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:53:27] Luis Navia: —Benjamin, Ramón — Amado was probably the most successful, one of the richest drug smugglers ever, ever, ever. Some people say he's still alive. I don't think so. El Chapo, they do a very good job of portraying, in general, a real picture there.
[00:53:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of people listening, definitely love those shows. I certainly watch all of these. And we had the Narcos guys on a while back, Javier Peña and Steve Murphy, the actual cops, not the actors — that was episode 453 if people want to go back and listen to that — nice guys actually. You know, they'd given talks now and kind of surprised that something they did 20, 30 years ago is now super popular. You know, they weren't expecting that obviously, nor were you.
[00:54:13] Luis Navia: No. I did two podcasts with Steve Murphy, great guy, amazing guy. And it's crazy that he was in Colombia when I was in Colombia. And we were both on opposite sides of the same coin because I was working with Pablo when he was hunting Pablo. I was friends with and worked with El Negro Galeano, which Pablo killed. And that was the basis for the creation of Los Pepes and all these characters that are in that series about Steve Murphy and Javier Peña. I knew these guys. And now, I told Steve, "Can you believe this? Like in the '80s, we were on different sides and I were doing podcasts together." And he said, "Yeah, well, Luis, you know, you were one of them, but you were just there for vacation. Yeah. You were one of them. You can't say you weren't. You never changed who you really were. The business did not change your nature."
[00:55:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:55:15] Luis Navia: You know, I didn't become a killer because I hung around with killers. I was always turned on by my money. So the greed factor was always there. I was always money-hungry. Yes, my morality gauge on how to make money — I didn't think that what we were doing was that bad. I didn't think it was bad. I always said, you know, liquor, the people that sell liquor, the people that sell arms — today, coke is illegal. Tomorrow, they'll be legal, but you know, there's certain things I never did becauase that was not me. And I was not going to go that far on the morality, like kidnapping and killing or human trafficking, it's done. And some people say that what I did is worse, but I just didn't see it as that we were just moving a commodity like anything else.
[00:56:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I've heard you say I did something illegal, not something immoral.
[00:56:09] Luis Navia: Illegal, not immoral. I tried to keep it as much a business as possible. It's an illegal business, but I handled it in a very honest way, in a very humane way. I cannot be responsible for things beyond my reach. It's inhumane when, you know, people die of overdose, but people get drunk and get in a car and crash every day and die. But from my end, if I could avoid it, you know, I would avoid the people casualty part. Some things got too out of control that I had no say in it, it just fell into the hands of corporate headquarters, I'd say. Some guy just stole 5,000 kilos because he stole it because he wanted to, I'll say, I can't do anything about that. You know, that's when the office comes in and they handle it at that level.
[00:57:00] But a friend of mine lost 400 kilos in California, a Mexican friend of mine, and it wasn't really his fault. I paid for them, instead of having him whacked, I paid for it. And then we continued working. So I made it up, but anybody else would have said, "No, I'm not paying 400 kilos." That was four million dollars.
[00:57:21] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:57:22] Luis Navia: I got charged at 10,000 a kilo, I didn't get charged for price. You know, I paid for it. Twice, I did that.
[00:57:29] Jordan Harbinger: You said, "Nobody gets in the business to kill people. They get in to make money. And then the business changes you and you end up a killer." What's that process like, how does that happen?
[00:57:38] Luis Navia: Everybody gets in the business to make money. Some people get into the business as a killer because that's what they're good at to make money. They start out as a killer and they end up owning a cocaine exporting enterprise, so as they grew in the ranks, but everybody starts out to make money. The killers in the coke business that I've known started as a killer to make money. They didn't start as a killer, just because they enjoyed killing. Although I know in some situations where people lose their mind and then they start enjoying what they're doing and they're psychopaths, then they — okay. The other group of people will kill you in a heartbeat because it's business, they will not hesitate to kill you, but it's business.
[00:58:22] But everybody starts out to make money, whether you start out like I did distributing, but what I did, I did it for money. I didn't do it for free. In my case, I was with a girl that I was enjoying my time with her so much that I just did it, the hangout with her. It was just a result of me hanging out with her that I got involved in the business. At the beginning, I started in the business just to be with her, living with her, and hanging out with her. It was so great and so much fun that that was part of it. And then, as a result, I ended up saying, yes, I do want to stay in the business because she said, "Do you want to stay? Or do you want to get out?" I says, "No, no, no, no, no, no. I've always loved rock and roll. I always wanted to be a rock and roll drummer and this is better than rock and roll," so I stayed. And that conversation actually did take place. We were overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
[00:59:15] Jordan Harbinger: You wrote, "If you're scared of dying, don't get into this business." So is it just a young man's game? You know, like young guys, we don't think we're going to die. Us, older guys, know we're going to die. I'm not trying to expedite the process.
[00:59:26] Luis Navia: If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't even know where to start. I don't think I could do it. Timing is everything. I was at the right time at the right place with the right people and got connected in the right way. Now, while I was doing this, was I thinking of getting busted or dying? No. Because if you're thinking of dying all the time or getting busted all the time, then too much of your thinking has gone into that instead of going into being creative, intelligent, and smart, and doing what you're doing in the right way.
[01:00:01] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Luis Navia. We'll be right back.
[01:00:06] This episode is sponsored in part by Framebridge. I have to tell you about this amazing service called Framebridge. They make it super easy and affordable to frame things like prints of your kids' artwork, travel photos, you do it right from your phone. And with father's day right around the corner, Framebridge also makes a great gift. In fact, select gifts, ship the next day in a gift box with a bow, just go to framebridge.com and upload your photo. You can even mail in physical pieces if you want to. And the experts at Framebridge will custom frame your item after you've previewed it online with different frame styles. It comes ready to hang. Prices start at 39 bucks with free shipping. Let me tell you that's a hell of a lot cheaper than going to a frame store. And it's a lot faster. A frame store around here quoted me like months of wait time. I ordered a bunch of stuff from Framebridge, including a really cool print to cover a wall safe, that I may or may not have, and an entire gallery wall of family photos, really high quality. We love it. We keep ordering from them. I highly recommend it.
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[01:02:09] Now for the rest of my conversation with Luis Navia.
[01:02:14] You had some close calls. Tell us about the crocodile thing. I mean, this was a—
[01:02:19] Luis Navia: Jesus
[01:02:19] Jordan Harbinger: —you know, this is a clencher.
[01:02:21] Luis Navia: We worked in Cancún for many years. It got to a point where we said, "We're not working Cancún anymore because it's getting too dangerous. And now you have to pay tribute to Amado Carrillo's group," that was run by a guy named Metro. So we decided to stay out of Cancún. But one day I get a phone call and said, "Hey, we got permission to work in Cancún." So I said, fine. I brought the load into Belize and I traveled from Mexico City to Cancún because we were going to receive the load in Chetumal, which is part of that Cancún area, that falls under the umbrella of the Juárez Cartel and under the umbrella of this guy that controls that whole area. To make a long story short, I traveled to Cancún and I get to Cancún and I'm trying to find Metro and I can't find him.
[01:03:08] And I make a couple of phone calls and I can't find him because I want to tell him, "Listen, my 600 kilos are in Belize. Let me know when you want me to hand them over to your people and chop them up." And so I go to a hotel that I know they own. I have a couple of drinks and then somebody in through the door comes Metro's number one, transporter, Gil. So I tell Gil, I said, "Gil, I got 600 kilos in Belize and I'm glad you're here. So let's talk about, you know, how am I going to get them over to you and when do you want to do this?" He said, "Oh, we'll talk about that later. Let's have some drinks and do this," and so we started drinking, started playing pool. So at the end of the night, I said, "Listen, I want to play tennis tomorrow. So I'm going to go home early. And we had already had quite a few drinks." It was my idea. And I said, "You know, this one last pool game, we'll play for 250,000. If I win you, give me a $250,000 break on the transport. If I lose, I give you 50 kilos placed in Cancún. Of the 600 that are in Belize, you take 50 as your own, and 50 at 5,000 kilos is $250,000.
[01:04:12] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:04:13] Luis Navia: So I lost, I almost won, but I lost—
[01:04:16] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[01:04:16] Luis Navia: —by one ball or something, eight ball. So I go home, boom, then wake up the next morning, I'm going to go play tennis. I played tennis. Then I went to my business in Cancún, the coffee business. And I went across the street to make a phone call from a payphone before you know it, I get hit in the back. My hair gets yanked. They want to put me in a Chevrolet truck. This is Metro's people and Metro. He's accusing me that I'm working under the radar, that I should have told them that I was in Cancún working. According to him, I'm working under the radar, trying to sneak one by pulling a fast one on him.
[01:04:53] Jordan Harbinger: Like, you're doing business in his area without letting him in on the business.
[01:04:56] Luis Navia: Correct.
[01:04:57] Jordan Harbinger: Got it.
[01:04:57] Luis Navia: I said, "Are you nuts? You think I'd be here in Cancún myself on a payphone. On top of that, do you think I would have gone to play pool with Gil last night? That's all bullsh*t." He said, "Get him in the trunk, get him in the car." So finally, I backed flipped in this. I didn't let myself get into the car. So I said, "Okay, let's settle down. I'll ride with you. But please just let me ride in the front seat with you. I need to explain." "Oh my god, this guy — take this guy now. Next thing you know, you may want to drive." I just said, "Just let me go in the front seat." So here I am explaining to this guy, this whole thing, he wanted to have nothing of it. "I don't want to hear nothing about it." He's driving to the Laguna, which used to be an abandoned theme park. It had green and red pyramids and the concrete geometrical figures, and it was abandoned and they used to keep some alligators, crocodiles. It was the type of crocodile back there because the alligators were on the golf course. The alligators are more docile than these crocs, saltwater, freshwater crocs.
[01:06:06] And we're driving there. I'm very upset. I mean, I'm terrified because he says, "I'm going to throw you off. The only thing that's going to be less are those shiny little plastic shoes you got on," my tennis shoes. I'm trying to explain to him. At the same time, I'm calling Gil nonstop. This guy doesn't answer. I said, "Oh my god—" this guy's on a plane to who knows where, whatever, hungover. He doesn't answer. Right before, we're about to get there to where they kept the crocodiles. And this man is known that he used to throw people there. Three minutes before getting there, finally, Gil answers the phone because I asked Metro to dial him from his phone. He didn't want to, I convinced him to dial him. He dialed him and he answered. And Metro goes, [Foreign Language] means the Colombian. "I have him here in my custody and I'm going to throw him into the crocodile. The only thing that's going to be leftover are those white shiny sneakers." And he kind of was hungover. He said, [Foreign Language], he explained it to him. He said, "No, no, no. Don't throw him into the car. He owes me $250,000 from last night."
[01:07:22] So this guy goes — he's blown away. He thought it was a bullsh*t story. And he looks at me and you know, like when somebody looks at you and you know there's a certain bond to him, it was so far fetched and it turned out to be true that he couldn't believe it. And you know what he said? He said, "You know what? You're crazier than I am. You're playing pool with Gil. You lose 200 — not even I'll do that. $250,000? You have a load in Belize and you're here in Cancún. You know this is my town. I mean, all these things are so out of alignment with the planets, let's say, and yet it's true. You did lose 250,000." I mean, he looked at me and there was a certain bond and then he dropped me off at the hotel. And then you realize that these kinds of people they're so whacked out, they're so strange. They're so different. The same way, there's a look that saves your life. There's a look that you can walk into a restaurant and you look them the wrong way. They'll put a bullet in your head, like nothing and they'll have his tacos and leave.
[01:08:28] And yes, that was very close. That was very close to the adrenaline was going. I don't even have words to tell you, because I don't know what I felt. It was just an instant nonstop trying to get that phone call and trying to get, and knowing your time's running out. You're not thinking about, is it going to hurt if the crocodiles bite me or eat me? You're not thinking about that. You don't have to think about that. If you're thinking about that, then you're not using your time properly. You need to make that goddamn phone call. You can't be there crying or, "Oh my god. Don't take me." Because the first thing they'll do, "Look, he's crying like a baby," and you lost all that good time where you could have been making a phone. Either that or thinking of a way to jump out of the truck.
[01:09:14] Jordan Harbinger: So basically, if you had just gone to bed that night, instead of being a degenerate gambler, you'd be dead by now. You'd be dead.
[01:09:21] Luis Navia: Dead.
[01:09:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:09:22] Luis Navia: And I never gamble.
[01:09:24] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, you never gamble. That was just a one-off.
[01:09:25] Luis Navia: I've only gotten twice in my life.
[01:09:27] Jordan Harbinger: That's funny.
[01:09:28] Luis Navia: Once with Poli, we were playing poker at night, with Mario — rest in peace and rest in peace, Poli. And I lost 100,000. That's it? I never gamble. And that time, for the hell of it, I played — but I went to Vegas to launder money, trading money for chips, but I'm not a gambler. I just did it for the hell of it.
[01:09:49] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[01:09:49] Luis Navia: But if I would've gone to bed that night, and I have gotten picked up on that phone and put in that truck, I would have not had that kind of story. I would have just had to say, "You know, we have a load, please believe me, it's for you, dah, dah, dah," then I could have been dead.
[01:10:07] Jordan Harbinger: Unbelievable. How did you retire? Right? You said if you're going to retire, never tell people you're going to retire because acting educated are better than others is a good way to get killed. I mean, I assume you were forced into retirement by getting arrested. Not because you wanted to retire.
[01:10:24] Luis Navia: I never wanted to retire. That's how crazy it was. The Feds retired me. They picked me up and they put an end to my career but if it would have been for me — you know, I was already under indictment. So I had no choice. I had to continue working because I wasn't about to get myself up and go to jail. So I had to continue working. So I would have continued working, but I have a friend of mine. He didn't grow up as a wealthy person. He made a lot of money in the coke business. And then he started going to Paris and being very refined and very educated and this and that. And he started telling everybody, "I'm going to retire and move to Paris. And I'm not going to have no more, nothing to do with this BS anymore."
[01:11:08] One day he got picked up, they kidnapped him, they took all his money. You know, they just said, "Let him retire? This guy just thinks he comes in, does this, then retires and walks away." But then there was some stories about him that he had done some things that — you know, he cheated some people out of some money, declared some loads that were lost, that weren't lost, kept the money, played with that. So, but yes, they did pick them up. They took his money. One morning, they said, "You're free to leave." He went to the river, bowed down to wash his face and got up — took him to the river, took a machete and whoop, chop his head off.
[01:11:48] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Yeah. So if you want to retire in the business, you literally just have to disappear.
[01:11:53] Luis Navia: Exactly. Don't tell anybody don't — just disappear.
[01:11:57] Jordan Harbinger: Let them think your plane went down over the ocean and you just never made it home.
[01:12:01] Luis Navia: Yeah. And I know a lot of people that I've been very fortunate that they've never been indicted. They've worked 30 years and they're retired. They're sitting back and joined their money. No problem.
[01:12:15] Jordan Harbinger: How much do you think you made over your career as a narco or a smuggler?
[01:12:21] Luis Navia: I don't know. 50 million, 80 million. I don't know, but that's very little.
[01:12:26] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:12:27] Luis Navia: For the cartels, you know, billions were produced.
[01:12:32] Jordan Harbinger: Is it hard to calculate how much you earned in the business? Because that's a pretty big spread. 50 to 80 million.
[01:12:37] Luis Navia: Yeah. It is hard. It's hard because it comes in and it goes out. It's a hard number to pinpoint, but somewhere around there, I guess.
[01:12:47] Jordan Harbinger: Were you able to stash anything? I mean, I guess you probably can't tell me that because if you get arrested and then you come out, you can't be like, "Yeah, I had a bunch of money under the mattress."
[01:12:56] Luis Navia: No. I mean, people know that there's something, you know, there's always been something. It's private, but—
[01:13:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:13:03] Luis Navia: —there's always been something.
[01:13:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I figured it. Of course, it's private. I'm still going to ask because people are wondering. You know, man, come on. You know how this works.
[01:13:11] Luis Navia: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of money that went through my hands, you know, and I should've been more responsible. I shouldn't have retired. I'm an educated man. I could have done anything. I could have bought 10 McDonald's franchises back in the '80s. I could've just closed my eyes and just gone like this on a map of Miami and bought 20, 30 properties, a hundred apartments. But then I was always so caught up in the business itself. I had to leave the United States. I wanted nothing to do with the US. I didn't want any properties here. So I started investing overseas, macadamia farming in Costa Rica, in Mexico, coffee operations here in Mexico, latex this, that. In the end of the day, there's something, there's always something left over, I mean, what can I tell you.
[01:14:06] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. You said, "The best thing that ever happened was getting arrested. I couldn't do the right thing myself — quit the business. So somebody had to do it for me." Do you think you were kind of addicted to the money and the lifestyle or was it just the thrill of smuggling that kept you hooked?
[01:14:21] Luis Navia: I was in love with my business. It was a business where, you know, I've dealt with the highest levels in that industry. Anytime you're in an industry and you're dealing with the highest people in that industry. It's interesting. And I've always been someone that wants to make it better and take it to the next level. So we started small, we ended up with freighters, so we grew the business. So as an entrepreneur, I was pretty excited about being at a level of dealing with freighters. Later on, I realized that freighters was a mistake. I should have just dealt with large size boats, but not freighters, not commercial. Freighters are on paper trail. I always knew that the paper trail was going to nail us, having to have offices to maintain those freighters and employees, but I was never going to quit. I liked what I did the thrill also because it's thrilling. When you sent 5,000-6,000 kilos. Boom, you make it. It's a thrill. It's a thrill, not only the money but the act of just cat and mouse.
[01:15:30] Jordan Harbinger: How long were you then in prison?
[01:15:33] Luis Navia: Five years.
[01:15:34] Jordan Harbinger: Five years. Okay. I guess if I were to ask about regrets, it seems like missing those years with your kids and damaging that relationship has to be it.
[01:15:41] Luis Navia: Yes. Regrets, not being more mature, more responsible, not saving the amount of money I should've saved, and possibly getting out in time so that I would've never done prison time, but I never thought I was going to get caught — but yeah, that's one of my regrets. The time lost with my kids is a big, big-time regret and not having been responsible enough to save up more.
[01:16:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Separating the business of drugs from the partying maybe, yeah.
[01:16:18] Luis Navia: Oh, and regret is also partying too much.
[01:16:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:16:23] Luis Navia: Drinking and snorting, that's a big regret. That is something that whatever business you're in drinking and partying and snorting beyond a certain point, beyond normal standards is definitely not good. I really think liquors is bad and coke also.
[01:16:42] Jordan Harbinger: Your father was a strong figure in your life. He was a good businessman, right? in the sugar business. Do you think by getting into the narco life, maybe there's some betrayal of his values that he would have tried to teach you?
[01:16:55] Luis Navia: Oh, without a doubt, without a doubt, although I was honest in an illegal business and that's why I always, I was always involved in legal businesses while I was in the illegal business because I always wanted to feed myself the story that I'm going legit, I'm going legit, and I'm going to honor my dad's tradition of being a great businessman in the legal world. There's probably more dishonest people in the legal world than there are in the illegal world, but I always had that dream of someday being able to retire and be totally legit. And that was like, I was lying to myself because I knew I was never going to retire. One thing is to say the other thing is that your actions, certain actions that prove that you're working on retiring, I never did those initial moves to show anybody that I was on my way to retire. My attitude was always a reckless, crazy, pedal to the metal in the legal world attitude.
[01:17:55] Jordan Harbinger: You said that we're never going to be able to sort of fight the war on drugs, interdiction, so catching cocaine smuggling is fruitless. Do you think it's possible to dismantle these organizations? I guess, well, maybe it's better to ask. What do you think needs to happen for us to even make a dent in the war on drugs here? What can we do about this from your perspective?
[01:18:16] Luis Navia: You have to legalize it and once you legalize it, the market will level up. Okay. But for example, you could — cocaine is like bananas or coffee. There's an X amount of cocaine. The production of cocaine is that unlimited. Like United Fruit in Central America when they wanted to drive up the price of bananas, they used to buy up all the bananas and there was no banana for anybody else to buy, so they controlled the price. They control the physical bananas.
[01:18:47] The US government could go in with the money they spent on the DEA budget, ICE budget in all this drug with a 10th of that budget, they could buy up all the coca leaves that are produced down there. So once the government buys it, there's no coca leaves for any cartel organization to buy up. So basically you put them out of business because you will eliminate their supply because there's a limited supply. That's a hard move because number one, the US government is not allowed to buy cocaine. It may be allowed to buy through the agricultural department and let's say the coca leaf, but it can't buy the power. But then again, you'd have to partner up with criminal groups down there to do the buying for it.
[01:19:33] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:19:34] Luis Navia: So you'd empower another type of criminal bad guy. The best thing is to legalize it. Then you start growing it genetically modified cocaine. Thousands of acres in Kansas with genetically modified corn, you produce the cocaine here, high-grade legalize it, you tax it. And the guy that unfortunately is hooked on this sh*t can go to the drug store and buy a pure packet of cocaine that he knows has no fentanyl. And he knows that someday he can go and get treatment because it's legalized, it's paid taxes and it's in part of your insurance. Then the price will go down because the US government will sell that for $60 a gram, a super-pure product. You buy it in an airconditioned drugstore, not under a bridge, exposing yourself to getting killed. Under those circumstances, you will defeat the cartels, the cartels, that's it. It's just like prohibition. The criminality with booze ended when they legalized liquor. When was the last time you bought liquor from somebody that made it in his backyard?
[01:20:46] Jordan Harbinger: Never. Yeah, of course — actually, that's not true. When I lived in Serbia, I drank a lot of that, but that's an exception to the rule.
[01:20:52] Luis Navia: That's very interesting.
[01:20:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. They love that out there.
[01:20:55] Luis Navia: You buy liquor at the liquor store and you put that whole mafia, Chicago '20s criminality, and people drive-by shootings and everything that was happening died the day they legalized liquor. And Seagram's came in and you know, the Kennedys were involved and they got the representations for scotch — they cleaned it up and they paid taxes. That's the only way you're going to get the criminality out of the cocaine cartel business. No difference. You legalize it and it's over. Now, you can buy it legally. That's it. There's no illegality. There's no criminality. There's always going to be somebody selling something on the street. Why buy it from him? When it's much easier to drive into Walmart or Walgreens.
[01:21:44] Jordan Harbinger: I know you're doing consulting here and there for law enforcement, given your background and your experience. What types of things are they asking you if you're retired? I got to say it scares me a little bit that law enforcement is asking somebody who's been out of the business for decades how things are done. Like, are we that far behind in tradecraft and technology?
[01:22:04] Luis Navia: No, the things I did are still being done today. I was in it for so long, for 25 years. I met so many people and some people are still active, some people aren't, but there's always something that needs that you need to confirm from somebody that was there, boots on the ground. And I'm not doing that much anymore because remember I retired 22 years ago, but still they come to me once in a while with things to help them with or things that are happening, what I think, or this guy came from the past. This is happening. Could this be related to that or that? That kind of stuff, nothing proactive. Like I, don't go down to Colombia and infiltrate their drug groups, you know, or anything like that. I have a business to run here and that takes full-time priority, but consulting, yes, on money-laundering situations.
[01:23:02] Right now, the money situation has totally changed before the Colombians used to take their money. The exporters' here in Miami and the exporters' used to buy refrigerators and send them to Colombia and launder their money that way. Right now, the Mexicans are already even messing with that. The way the coke comes up through the tunnels, they take that bulk of that cash, billions of dollars and send it back to Mexico in bulk. Then they put $600 million, $700 million inside a container in cash, send it to China. The Chinese open up the container, take the 600 million, buy pens, Dixie cups, syringes, everything you see in Walmart. They take that money. Then that gets distributed to the whole plant and it's laundered.
[01:23:50] So money laundering has changed. No longer do you have the guys walking in with duffel bags into a bank. No longer do you have people giving money to people and exchange houses here. Right now, they don't want to deal with that. There's no paper trail. In bulk, it's taken to Mexico and in Mexico, it's taken them in cash to China. Once it gets to China, you lost it. In China, there is no dirty money. It's money. There is no money laundering, it's money. They have another concept. Dirty money? It doesn't look dirty to me, it looks pretty clean and with that money gets put into the whole global financial or consumer goods industry.
[01:24:33] Jordan Harbinger: Unbelievable. Yeah, that's pretty interesting. That's probably a whole separate show and maybe we'll have to have you come back and talk about that.
[01:24:40] So you mentioned earlier that you wouldn't do this all over again if you could, what would you do instead if you had a replay?
[01:24:48] Luis Navia: Well, I did what I did because at that time it played out for me and everything's timing. I think I would have been pretty good as a commodities trader. I would have gotten involved in trading buying and selling coffee, aluminum commodities, whether physical or futures, but mostly I think I would have been because of my nature, I would have been good at that.
[01:25:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, your dad was in the sugar business, right? Missed it by that much, right?
[01:25:18] Luis Navia: I tried to do it. I tried to go back and I even got subpoenaed and almost got in trouble for contraband in sugar. It's in the book, operation bittersweet.
[01:25:28] Jordan Harbinger: I'll leave that as a cliffhanger for people that want to go ahead and grab the book because contraband in sugar almost sounds like something that's not real, but apparently it is.
[01:25:38] Luis Navia: There's more money in that than there was in the coke business. I made a lot of money. The thing is my partner died, but it's real. It's real. Anytime you have a subsidy for a product, there's a way around it. I'll leave it at that. But a chapter in the book it's called operation sweetbitter. It was a customs operation focused on what was going on in the mid-'80s, a lot of it in Miami of the contraband of sugar.
[01:26:09] Jordan Harbinger: Luis, thank you so much fascinating conversation. You've had quite an interesting life and I appreciate that we were able to have this conversation.
[01:26:19] Now I've got some thoughts on this episode as usual, but before I get into that, you're about to hear a preview of my interview with the world's best counterfeiter.
[01:26:27] How long does it take to print $250 million?
[01:26:32] Frank Bourassa: Five months. It needs to be worthwhile. It's going to need to be perfect because perfect — go bake. One day for no particular reason, I was driving and thinking and I stopped at a red light. It just hit me out of nowhere that I was chasing something to make money from, sell something, make something, do something. All we do is to translate that into money. Why do we wake up in the morning and do that?
[01:26:59] Jordan Harbinger: I needed to do something for money, but why don't I just literally make money. One million dollars in $20 bills is about 50 kilos. So $250 million is 12,500 kilos or over eight Toyota Camry or six Ford F150s that has multiple metric sh*t tons of cash. You must have been freaking stoked, man because you knew you were going to put $20 bills all over all of that and then just never work again.
[01:27:34] Frank Bourassa: Yes. When I did bring it in and then I slammed the door shut. I was confident enough that everything I did after that, I hadn't done any mistakes, so it was good to go. By design, there are people specifically looking for you all the time. That's all they do. If you get suspect, you know, in any way, that's it, you're done. You can tell them whatever you want. They're not dummies. I mean, this is as high as it goes. It's top of the line.
[01:28:02] Jordan Harbinger: For more on how Frank Bourassa printed his own fortune and got away with it, check out episode 488 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:28:12] Man, this one just got out of control. The seizures towards the end of his career were worth billions of dollars. The street value of that cocaine is just unreal, multiple nations, including Venezuela and the USA. You know, things have gone crazy when Venezuela and Cuba and the United States are all working together. I mean, that is really something else.
[01:28:31] Just in case you're still tempted to romanticize the drug trafficking business. Here's a little anecdote for you. I left it out of the show, but it's just disgusting. When they would airdrop product to fishing camps, they would drop the product out of the plane, right? Like he said, there's glow sticks that they would attach to the product. Now, a lot of these local native tribes, you know, people who are first nation, they've been there forever. They live in the jungle. They didn't know what it was and the glow sticks were really something. So they would run over there to see what it is. And of course, the narcos would come by, see the natives all gawking at these glow sticks that are floating in the ocean on the cocaine packages, and they would slaughter all of them — men, women, and children — and just leave them for dead in the jungle.
[01:29:11] So if you think this is a cool kid occupation, and it's a lot of fun and you know, a little adrenaline here and there, and then just think about that kind of thing. And it should disabuse you of any notion that this is an honorable, upright way to make a living or even a career in which you could possibly avoid doing evil things in the first place. The whole business is rife with senseless murder and human waste. The reason I brought this story to you today is not only because it's exciting and interesting, and Luis was so open, but because Luis is such an outlier and that he's still alive to tell the story in the first place.
[01:29:46] Big thank you to Luis Navia. Links to all things Luis will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. If you buy the book or any book from any guest on the show, please use our website links. It does help support the show. Transcripts are in the show notes. Videos on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support this show. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or you can always connect with me on LinkedIn.
[01:30:13] I'm teaching you how to connect with people and manage relationships using the same software, systems, and tiny habits that I use every day. That's our Six-Minute Networking course. That course is and always will be free. It's at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty to create and maintain relationships before you need them. And most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:30:39] The show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's interested in the narco-trafficking game and, hopefully, is not a trafficker themselves, but merely a gawker from the sidelines like myself, share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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