Only One Of The Fugitives From Netflix’s World’s Most Wanted Has Been Caught

Before an episode of Netflix's new docuseries World's Most Wanted even ends, you'll find yourself wondering — or maybe more accurately, worrying — whether these notorious criminals are still out there. So let's get this out of the way right now — all but one of them are. This in depth series shows how these bad guys (and one bad gal) have managed to thwart the authorities at every turn. Heads up, fake passports play an important role here.

Over the course of five episodes, World's Most Wanted profiles a drug kingpin, a war profiteer, a Russian crime boss, a mafia don, and a female terrorist of mythic proportions. They do this by sitting down with the police officials, government operatives, journalists, and victims who want to see them finally brought to justice. What viewers learn is that this is easier said than done. These smooth criminals have the help of government officials, terrorist allies, and fellow offenders who are all too happy to help them stay hidden.

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That’s why there is little to celebrate in these stories of cat and mouse, but there is a lot to learn from these exhaustive manhunts. That's not to say you won't feel angry and frustrated after watching this stranger than fiction Netflix series, which shows how power and money manage to keep the most unsavory of characters out of jail.

Still, when World's Most Wanted is all said and done, you'll likely find yourself wanting to know more about these infamous figures and where they are now.

Episode 1: Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García


Who is Zambada García?
The 72-year-old former poppy field worker is a longtime partner of Mexican drug king Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and current leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, the biggest and richest criminal organization in Mexico. In World’s Most Wanted, he’s referred to as “the main brain of drug trafficking here in Mexico.” His cartel is believed to be the number one supplier of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin to the United States. Still, after 40 years of drug trafficking, he has never been arrested — not even for a parking ticket.

In the ’90s, he gained notoriety for being “a major coordinator for several Mexican drug trafficking organizations,” according to the U.S. Department of State. His strength was forming alliances and bringing former members of the disbanded Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico's most infamous crime syndicate in the ’80s, into the fold. “He’s somewhat of a business visionary, in that he’s very strategic in the way that he thinks,” Jack Riley, a retired DEA agent who was part of the hunt for Zambada García, explains in the series.

By the ’90s, he was considered one of the strongest drug traffickers in Mexico, moving multiple tons of cocaine and marijuana, as well as multi-kilograms of heroin across the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. government alleges that he built a drug trafficking operation that secretly moved cocaine from Colombia to Mexico via boats and possibly submarines, before using trucks and airplanes to get it to major cells in the U.S. Zambada García, who mostly rules from the shadows, is now considered one of the most powerful drug kingpins in the world despite being on the run for over 20 years. 

The Sinaloa Cartel rakes in close to $11 billion a year, according to Bloomberg in 2018. He has used those billions in drug profits to invest in real estate and other legitimate businesses such as the Santa Monica milk company. Diversifying his portfolio has helped him stay in power and made him a Robin Hood figure in his community. "Even though he’s only had maybe an elementary-school education, he’s received a Harvard-level education from some of the most prolific, knowledgeable and astute drug lords that Mexico has ever had,” Mike Vigil, the former head of international operations for the DEA, told Bloomberg two years ago.

Where Is Zambada García Now?
He is reportedly hiding in the mountains of Mexico's Sinaloa region. The U.S. has offered a reward of up to $5 million for any information leading to the arrest and/or conviction for the man which Riley says might be “the number one bad guy in the world.” However, finding him won’t be easy. "I have been up into those mountains,” Virgil told Bloomberg, “and it’s very difficult to capture anybody.”
Photo: Courtesy of netflix.

Episode 2: Félicien Kabuga


Who is Kabuga?
The 84-year-old financier of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that resulted in the murders of more than 800,000 Rwandans in 100 days. The violence was spurned by the assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana whose plane was shot down over the Rwandan capital. Kabuga, the richest man in Rwanda before the genocide, bought hundreds of thousands of machetes that were given to an extremist militia, a majority of which were Hutus, to kill the minority Tutsi population and political opponents regardless of their ethnic origin. (The militia believed the Tutsis were responsible for the death of the president, who was Hutu.) "The genocide could not have happened without Kabuga. He basically bankrolled the entire genocide," Phil Clark, a professor at SOAS University of London, told Al Jazeera earlier this year.

Kabuga, who was ethnic Hutu, also incited the ethnic killings via his privately owned radio station Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), broadcasting the names and whereabouts of those who he thought should be killed. Pierre-Richard Prosper, the former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues under President George W. Bush, believes this was the “most powerful weapon in the genocide.” Kabuga was an “exceptional figure both for cruelty and perversity” former Swiss intelligence officer Jacques Pitteloud says in World’s Most Wanted. The Rwandan genocide “led to a catastrophic war in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and continues to destabilize much of central Africa today,” according to The New York Times. 

Kabuga was charged with seven counts of crimes against humanity including genocide in 1997 by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Six years later, the U.S. offered a $5 million reward for any information on Kabuga. “It’s the men often behind the scenes, you know, those with clean fingernails, who may not even need to raise their voice that do the greatest evil,” Stephen Rapp, former U.S. Ambassador for War Crimes, says in the episode

Where is Kabuga now?
After more than 25 years of evading authorities through the use of 28 aliases and close ties to the Kenyan government, Kabuga was caught in France on May 16, 2020. The coronavirus pandemic helped French authorities track the man who was living in lockdown in a well-off Paris suburb under a false identity. He is expected to stand trial next year. 

Kabuga is considered a landmark arrest, likely the most important arrest of a figure wanted by an international tribunal since the 2011 apprehension of Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Serbian military leader, who was later convicted of war crimes and genocide during the Bosnian war. “Kabuga has always been seen by the victims and survivors as one of the leading figures,” Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, told The New York Times. “For them, after waiting so many years, his arrest is an important step toward justice.”
Photo: Courtesy of netflix.

Episode 3: Samantha Lewthwaite


Who is Lewthwaite?
Known as “the White Widow” for being the widow of the 7/7 London terrorist bomber Germaine Lindsay, she is the world’s most wanted female terrorist. The Northern Ireland-born jihadist who converted to Islam in her teens, is accused of causing the deaths of more than 400 people as an alleged member of the Somalia-based Islamic militant group al-Shabaab. The 36-year-old daughter of a former British soldier has also been accused of recruiting women and teenagers to become suicide bombers for the terrorist group that is allied with al-Qaeda.

After denying all knowledge of her husband’s involvement in the 2005 bombings, Lewthwaite, who adopted the Muslim name Sherafiyah, disappeared. By 2012, she was a fugitive in Kenya where she faced multiple charges including possession of explosives. She was named as one of the suspects in the 2012 grenade attack on a bar in Mombasa, Kenya that killed three people. That was the “last concrete identification of Samantha Lewthwaite anywhere,” according to former Daily Telegraph correspondent Mike Pflantz. A year later, her name was linked with an attack claimed by al-Shabaab at a Nairobi mall, which left 71 dead and 175 injured. In 2015, she was wanted in connection to the terrorist attack at Kenya’s Garissa University that killed 147 people.

There are many who believe Lewthwaite is a “study in terrorist mythmaking,” but World’s Most Wanted casts her as a serious threat. She is wanted by Interpol, the CIA, MI5, and MI6, but has managed to evade them all by using at least three different aliases including Natalie Faye Webb. “She knows how to avoid observation and surveillance,” says Patrick Mercer, former British army colonel, in World’s Most Wanted. “I think she got a kick out of it.” 

Where is Lewthwaite now?
No one knows. In 2014, it was rumored she had been killed in Ukraine by a Russian sniper, but those reports were never verified and are believed to be false. Many believe she is hiding in Kenya or Somalia thanks to her al-Shabaab connections, which make her nearly untouchable. “I don’t think she’s a woman who will give up that easy,” Zakia Hussein, deputy chief of Somali police, says in World’s Most Wanted. “But neither will I.” 
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Photo: Courtesy of netflix.

Episode 4: Semion Mogilevich 

 
Who is Mogilevich?  
Nicknamed the “Brainy Don,” the Russian Mafia boss with an economics degree has been called "the most dangerous mobster in the world.” The Ukranian-born Mogilevich is worth an estimated $10 billion and is considered one of the most powerful mob bosses in the world. He is wanted by the FBI for "weapons trafficking, contract murders, extortion, drug trafficking, and prostitution on an international scale." In 2009, the FBI added him to their 10 most wanted fugitives list, but Mogilevich denies U.S. allegations that he is a crime boss.

He reportedly joined the Lyubarskaya crime family in the early 1970s as a petty thief and was later linked to the Solntsevskaya gang, the largest and most powerful crime syndicate of the Russian mafia. Investigative reporter Craig Unger compares him to The Usual Suspects character Keyser Söze in World’s Most Wanted, a mystery man who no one really knows. In the episode, Mario Scaramella, a security consultant and investigator, said he is “an evil genius” who “represents the dark side of Russian state.”

Mogilevich, who is Jewish, is believed to have made his first millions in the ‘80s by swindling Russian Jews who were looking for asylum in Israel and the United States. Later he was accused of involvement in a large scale tax fraud that cost Czech Republic citizens billions of dollars and swindled Americans and Canadians out of hundreds of thousands of dollars with the YBM Magnex securities fraud scheme. Mogilevich “controls everything that goes in and out of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport,” according to The Village Voice. He is known as a financial whiz and reportedly launders his money through legitimate businesses like a Russian basketball team and a Japanese restaurant in Prague. He has also legally purchased much of Hungary’s arms industry and Ukraine’s energy resources. There is evidence that Mogilevich may have ties to President Donald Trump through his associates, though, The Nation points out there is “no smoking gun.”

Mogilevich was arrested in Moscow for suspected tax evasion in 2008, but was released on bail the following year. It was a move Russia justified by saying the charges against him “are not of a particularly grave nature so investigators had no particular reason to keep them imprisoned.”

Where is Mogilevich now?
He’s believed to be in Moscow, where he’s safe due to Russia’s extradition laws with the United States. He is believed to be “on good terms” with Russian president Vladimir Putin, which allows him to “enjoy his wealth with absolute impunity.” Authorities believe the only way he will be caught is if he falls out of favor with Russia or travels to a different country that would extradite him to the U.S.

“There’s nothing that prevents the Russian government from arresting Semion Mogilevich and having him face trial in other countries. Starting with the United States,” Jonathan Winer, former Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of State, explains in the episode. “But I wouldn’t hold my breath.” The FBI is offering $100,000 for information leading to Mogilevich's arrest.
Photo: Courtesy of netflix.

Episode 5: Matteo Messina Denaro 


Who is Denaro?
The last Godfather of Cosa Nostras, the Sicilian mafia. He is nicknamed the “Playboy Don” due to his penchant for designer cars, clothes, and jewelry, but has also been called “the last Mohican of the old mafia.” (The term has its own issues, but alas, we must move on.)

Following the deaths of former mafia bosses Bernardo Provenzano in 2016 and Salvatore Riina in 2017, Denaro is said to be “the unchallenged boss of all bosses within the Italian mafia.” However, there are some who dispute this. “Aside from being a dangerous criminal, the idea that Denaro could be the new super-godfather is just media rhetoric,” Salvatore Lupo, an expert in the history of Italy’s Cosa Nostra, told The Guardian last year. Still, Denaro is considered to be the “most wanted fugitive in the Cosa Nostra,” according to World’s Most Wanted. 

The 58-year-old was born into a mafia family and would later become the favorite godson of Riina, eventually training under him. He allegedly committed his first murder at 18 and has been tied to the deaths of over 50 people including rival boss Vincenzo Milazzo and his pregnant girlfriend, and the young son of an informant. He is said to have claimed, “I filled a cemetery all by myself,” according to Massimo Russo, an attorney who prosecuted Cosa Nostra and appears in the episode.

Denaro was allegedly involved in the 1992 killing of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone and four others, along with the assassination of another one of Italy’s top anti-Mafia judges, Paolo Borsellino. He was also accused of playing a prominent role in the 1993 terrorist attacks in Italy that stemmed from the arrest of Riina and led to the deaths of 10 people.

Following the bombings, Denaro went into hiding, but in 2002, was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for his role in those attacks.

Where is Denaro now?
The man known as “the Sicilian” is still on the run. In the episode, Denaro is described as “a ghost” who has been able to cover his tracks with help from rival crime families, politicians, and businessmen. “He’s very cautious,” investigative journalist Lirio Abbate explains in the episode, “and is not the kind of fugitive who hides in basements or underground bunkers.”

Still, he has managed to achieve anonymity by limiting in person contact with those even in the mafia. The most recent image of him is an artist’s rendering of what he might look like now. The Italian authorities don’t have any writings or voice recordings to identify him by, which is why they’ve taken a “scorched earth approach,” according to Lieutenant Colonel Rocco Lo Pane of the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate. They’ve arrested 21 associates and family members, including his sister, to isolate him. “If he is still a fugitive,” Abbate says, “Cosa Nostra is still alive.”
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