Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners from Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History

Simon and Schuster, 9 jun. 2015 - 288 páginas
The page-turning, inside account of how three kids from Florida became big-time weapons traders—and how the US government turned on them.

In January of 2007, three young stoners from Miami Beach won a $300 million Department of Defense contract to supply ammunition to the Afghanistan military. Incredibly, instead of fulfilling the order with high-quality arms, Efraim Diveroli, David Packouz, and Alex Podrizki—the dudes—bought cheap Communist-style surplus ammunition from Balkan gunrunners. The dudes then secretly repackaged millions of rounds of shoddy Chinese ammunition and shipped it to Kabul—until they were caught by Pentagon investigators and the scandal turned up on the front page of The New York Times.

That’s the “official” story. The truth is far more explosive. For the first time, journalist Guy Lawson tells the thrilling true tale. It’s a trip that goes from a dive apartment in Miami Beach to mountain caves in Albania, the corridors of power in Washington, and the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawson’s account includes a shady Swiss gunrunner, Russian arms dealers, corrupt Albanian gangsters, and a Pentagon investigation that impeded America’s war efforts in Afghanistan. Lawson exposes the mysterious and murky world of global arms dealing, showing how the American military came to use private contractors like Diveroli, Packouz, and Podrizki as middlemen to secure weapons from illegal arms dealers—the same men who sell guns to dictators, warlords, and drug traffickers.

This is a story you were never meant to read.

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LibraryThing Review

Reseña de usuario  - dougcornelius - LibraryThing

Couldn't make this story up. A stoner dude grew up working a small time gun dealer with his father. He turns twenty and sets out on his own. He recruit his bodies to help win bids on government ... Leer reseña completa

LibraryThing Review

Reseña de usuario  - wdwilson3 - LibraryThing

Infrequently I run into a book that is well written but unlikable. War Dogs is such a book. A non-fiction tale of three pot-heads who become arms dealers during the Iraq and Afghanistan warfare, it's ... Leer reseña completa


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Sobre el autor (2015)

War Dogs Chapter One HELL-BENT
The e-mail confirmed it: the delivery was back on track, after weeks of maddening, inexplicable delays. It was May 24, 2007, and the e-mail said that a cargo plane had just lifted off from a military airstrip in Hungary and was banking east over the Black Sea toward Kyrgyzstan, some three thousand miles away. After stopping to refuel at an air base in Bishkek, the plane would carry on to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Aboard the plane were eighty pallets loaded with 5 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, for the Soviet Bloc weapons preferred by the Afghan National Army.

Reading the e-mail in his tiny office in Miami Beach, David Packouz breathed a sigh of relief. The shipment was part of the $300 million ammunition contract Packouz and his friends Efraim Diveroli and Alex Podrizki were attempting to fulfill for the Department of Defense. Packouz and his buddies were still in their early twenties, but they''d been contracted by the US Army to deliver a huge amount of munitions to the Afghanistan military. Bidding online, on the website where the Pentagon posted defense contracts for public competition, the stoner dudes had beat major corporations to win the Afghan contract. For weeks in the spring of 2007, Packouz had toiled tirelessly trying to obtain flyover permissions for the ammo from the countries between Hungary and Afghanistan--all formerly part of the Soviet Bloc. Working with nothing more than a cell phone, an Internet connection, and a steady supply of high-quality weed, he''d finally succeeded in getting the ammo en route to Kabul. But along the way Packouz had repeatedly encountered mysterious, invisible forces seemingly conspiring to stop him from delivering the ammo--the kind of political complications inherent in gunrunning.

Five thousand miles away, in the Balkan city of Tirana, Albania, Packouz''s friends Efraim Diveroli and Alex Podrizki were also dealing with menacing and mysterious forces as they tried to arrange for 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammo to be transported to Kabul. Alone in a notoriously lawless country, Diveroli and Podrizki were trying to negotiate with an Albanian mafioso taking kickbacks, as well as a Swiss gun dealer running the deal through a Cyprus company seemingly as a way to grease the palms of shadowy operators allegedly associated with the prime minister of Albania. Or so it appeared--knowing the underlying truth was often impossible in international arms dealing. As if those woes weren''t enough, Diveroli and Podrizki were also overseeing an operation to deceive the Pentagon by covertly repacking the AK-47 rounds into cardboard boxes to disguise that they had been manufactured decades earlier in China--a possible violation of American law.

Gunrunning, the three dudes were learning the hard way, was a tough business.

In Miami, David Packouz replied to the e-mail about the Kyrgyz ammo with excitement: the ammo was finally on its way. His workday at an end, he got in his new Audi A4 and drove home through the warm South Florida spring evening, windows open, U2''s "Beautiful Day" blasting on the stereo. What was happening was incredible to Packouz. He had no training as an international arms dealer, other than what he''d learned on the job from his friend, the twenty-one-year-old dynamo Efraim Diveroli. Packouz was only twenty-five years old, and his only postsecondary education was half a bachelor''s degree''s worth of chemistry credits, along with the diploma he''d earned from the Educating Hands School of Massage; until recently, he''d made his living as a masseur advertising his services on Craigslist. Now Packouz was a central player in the delivery of an entire arsenal to Afghanistan, responsible for chartering dozens of flights from all over Eastern Europe, obtaining flyover permissions from countries like Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and placating overwhelmed American soldiers on bombed-out tarmacs in Kabul trying to build the Afghan army in the midst of a hot war.

Winning the $300 million Afghan deal was changing Packouz''s life in myriad ways. He''d moved out of his dive studio apartment, into a condo in a flashy seaside building called the Flamingo. According to his calculations, he was about to become a multimillionaire. And that was just the beginning. Soon he was going to have enough money to kick-start his dream of a career as a rock musician. No more fending off the advances of massage clients who assumed he was a prostitute. No more self-doubt. No more existential angst. Soon he was going to be rich--and he was going to be famous.

Arriving home at his condo, Packouz packed the cone of his new Volcano electronic bong, took a deep hit, and felt the pressures of the day drift away into a clean, crisp high. Dinner was at Sushi Samba, a hipster Asian-Latino fusion joint. Packouz was exhausted but exhilarated--the improbable turn his life was taking was thrilling, even if it required extremely hard work. As his miso-marinated Chilean sea bass arrived, his cell phone rang.

The freight-forwarding agent they''d hired was calling from New York and he sounded panicked: "We''ve got a problem. The plane has been seized on the runway in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz secret service won''t let it take off for Kabul."

"What are you talking about?" Packouz said, straining to hear over the restaurant''s pounding music.

"Local customs and security personnel--the local KGB--are fucking with us. They won''t explain anything. I need diplomatic intervention from the United States."

"That''s bullshit!" Packouz shouted. "We worked for weeks to get the permits."

"The Kyrgyz KGB is blackmailing us. They say you have to pay a three-hundred-thousand-dollar fine for every day the plane sits on the runway."

Packouz was baffled, stoned, unable to grasp the implications of what he was being told. He had no idea that the ammo he was attempting to ship to Afghanistan was now a bargaining chip in a game of geopolitical brinksmanship between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin. The Russian president didn''t like NATO expanding into Eastern Europe, nor did old-school Communist elements inside the Kyrgyz intelligence apparatus. The United States was also being extorted to pay a higher rent for its use of the Bishkek airport as a refueling and staging area--a vital strategic link for the war in Afghanistan. Then there was the recently imposed ban on Russian companies'' selling arms to the US government, denying the Russians the chance to compete for the huge Afghan ammunition contract. The Russians were orchestrating a tit-for-tat reaction, it appeared; it was known in global arms circles that the Afghans were running out of ammunition, so slowing the supply line was a devilish way to hurt American interests.

"It was surreal," Packouz recalled. "Here I was dealing with matters of international security and I was half-baked. I didn''t know anything about the situation in that part of the world. But I was a central player in the Afghan War--and if our ammo didn''t make it to Kabul the entire strategy of building up the Afghanistan army was going to fail. It was totally killing my buzz. But I had to get my shit together. I had to put on my best arms-dealer face."

Stepping outside the restaurant, Packouz cupped a hand over his cell phone to shut out the noise. "Tell the Kyrgyz KGB that ammo needs to get to Afghanistan right now," he shouted into the phone. "This contract is part of a vital mission in the global war on terrorism. Tell them that if they fuck with us they''re fucking with the government of the United States!"

Hanging up, panicking, Packouz decided he needed to talk to Efraim Diveroli, the leader of their operation. Diveroli was asleep in his hotel in Tirana when Packouz reached him. Still groggy from a long night of carousing, Diveroli was sleeping next to a prostitute who''d been provided to him by an Albanian businessman hoping to ingratiate himself with the young American gunrunner.

"We have an emergency," Packouz said.

"Dude, I''m sleeping," Diveroli replied.

"Our plane got seized in Kyrgyzstan," Packouz said.

"Our plane was seized?" Diveroli said. "What the fuck you talking about?"

"The Hungarian ammo. Kyrgyz intelligence is saying we don''t have the right paperwork to transit through their country. They say we''ll be fined three hundred grand for every day we''re stuck there."

Diveroli was now fully awake.

"Three hundred thousand dollars a day?" Diveroli asked, shouting into the phone. "That''s insane. What the fuck is going on? Tell them this is a vital mission in the war on terror. Tell them that if they fuck with us they''re fucking with the United States of America."

"Yeah, yeah, I said that. I''m going to call the American embassy when it''s morning there."

"You got to fix this. We can''t afford this kind of shit. This is unfuckingacceptable. Call the State Department, call the Pentagon--call anyone you can think of. Go over to Kyrgyzstan and give those mobsters a fucking blow job if you have to. Do whatever it takes to get this resolved--and I mean whatever it takes."

"I''m on it," Packouz said.

"You know I can''t help from here--I got enough troubles dealing with the fucking Albanian mafia."

"I''ll get to the Kyrgyz."

"Now if you''ll excuse me, I''m going to get back to fucking this hooker," Diveroli concluded.

/ / / / /

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