Authors: Kathryn Bonella
About Snowing in Bali
âSnowing in Bali'
Among Bali's drug dealers, it's code that the paradise island is full of cocaine.
For the men who run Bali's drug empires, it's time to get rich and party hard.
Families, surfers and singles may flock to the holiday island to relax and play, but among the palms trees and infinity pools lies a seedy underworld of drugs and violence.
Snowing in Bali
is the story of the drug trafficking and dealing scene that's made Bali one of the most important destinations in the global distribution of narcotics.
Kathryn Bonella, bestselling author of
, has been given unprecedented access into the lives of some of the biggest players in Bali's drug world, both past and present. She charts their rise to incredible wealth and power, and their drug-fuelled lifestyles, filled with orgies, outrageous extravagance and surfing. But running international drug empires in Bali can also be a highly risky business, with terrible consequences for those caught and convicted.
From the highs of multi-million dollar deals to the desperate lows of death row in an Indonesian high-security jail,
Snowing in Bali
is an extraordinary, uncensored insight into a hidden world.
PRAISE FOR KATHRYN BONELLA'S HOTEL KEROBOKAN:
â.Â .Â .an insightful and sharply observed account of life inside Indonesia's most notorious prison. Bonella casts a cool, journalistic eye over some horrific events.Â .Â .'
âBonella's portrayal of the jail, which holds men and women, will make readers flinch with its graphic descriptions of violence and debauchery taking place under the eyes of bent guards.'
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
Â 7Â Â Â A
20Â Â Â
To the holiday-makers who think they're going to paradise
Â .Â .Â .Â
All isn't as it seems
Because of the nature of the revelations contained in this book, some names have been changed in order to protect the identities of the people involved. This includes instances when they are referred to in quoted media articles.
There's something about BaliÂ .Â .Â .
.Â .Â .Â And drug dealers
They're a perfect fit â with Bali's myriad hotels, sun, surf, millions of tourists, an endless stream of the world's biggest drug bosses and a strong culture of corruption, the party paradise is the ideal place to play the drug game.
That is, until you go down.
You are living the dream until you bust and all the reality comes so fast and so badÂ .Â .Â .Â this game is fucking dangerous.
Ââ International drug boss, busted in Bali in 2012 with nearly a kilo of cocaine
Snowing in Bali
has evolved organically out of my other two books,
and Schapelle Corby's
. I think of them as my Bali trilogy, as each one was inspired by the previous and there's a crossover of characters and themes in all three.
Writing Schapelle's book opened my eyes to the bizarre, crazy world of Hotel K. Sitting in the jail every day for a couple of months interviewing Schapelle, I saw the sex and the violence first hand, and the experience of getting to know many of the prisoners inspired
. The subsequent researching for and writing of
gave me insight into island life, and the fact that outside the white walls of the jail, Bali shared many of the same issues. Despite its
Eat Pray Love-
esque image, corruption was endemic, violence rife, and the drug dealers were cleaning up, selling both on the island and sending drugs overseas, especially to Australia. Bali is located in a strategically perfect spot for international trafficking and its millions of tourists serve as a perfect camouflage.
Snowing in Bali
took about 18 months to research and write. Over that period, I spent time with gangsters, drug dealers, pimps and hookers to get a feel for the dark side of the paradise, which invisibly infiltrates everywhere. But it was the access I got to the island's international drug dealers that was most riveting. There was no question their stories were the ones to tell, especÂially as more and more of the island's dealers agreed to talk to me; participating in one-on-one interviews, often sitting for days at a time while I recorded their stories.
My entree into this unique position was largely due to my previous book â it had introduced me to dealers in jail, who put me in touch with people outside, most of whom knew of
Some had read and liked it, with one person even photocopying it to pass around. It was also proof that I wasn't an undercover cop.
Of course I don't condone what they do, but I found the drug dealers fascinating, and mostly highly intelligent, educated, multi-lingual and cultured â with a penchant for the best: top restaurants, French champagne, high-class hookers, luxury villas and hotels, first-class travel and designer clothes. Many were surfers, who had come to Bali chasing the perfect waves, and found an ostensibly easy way to fund their lifestyles in paradise.
As you'll see, the main characters tell their stories, with graphic â sometimes very sexually explicit â details of their drug fuelled party lifestyles, as well as their secret tactics to move drugs through the airports and evade police. Once the dealers started warming up and trusting me in their interviews, it was amazing â they just talked and talked and talked, often coming back the next day to talk some more. Most told me they were speaking of many things for the first time â as I'd promised not to use their names. I learned that even among their close dealer friends, these guys don't swap stories â their lives are infused with deep paranoia, especially when they're using coke. They also know that if another person in the drug game gets busted, often their only leverage is giving someone else up (or cash). So it was that some of these dealers were almost bursting to tell their stories, often with a gleam in their eyes as they recalled some moments. Rafael, in particular, seemed to want to talk as a kind of confessional and joked at one point that it felt like I was his psychiatrist. I offered a non-judgmental ear, and that was the key.
I should mention that for some of those I spoke to, I paid them a financial contribution for their time, which was undoubtably also an incentive.
A couple of the dealers were also motivated by a heartfelt desire to show young kids who might be thinking of getting involved in the glamorous life of fast bucks, hot women and orgies, that in the end, it's not worth it. Literally, within a second, life goes from heaven to hell.
I first met some of the dealers during
research when I went to the Super Maximum Security Prison on Nusakambangan Island to interview Juri and Ruggiero whom I'd got to know in Kerobokan Prison while working with Schapelle. It was there that I met Marco, a very funny and gregarious man, who is on death row for trafficking 13.7Â kilos of coke in a hang-glider frame. When he was busted, he'd fled the airport and was on the run for two weeks. In jail, he cooked me lunch â pasta and steak (he'd spent time in a Swiss cooking school, and it was delicious). I also met his death-row compatriot Rodrigo, who was Marco's polar opposite â very quiet and sad, with huge black circles under his eyes. I was introduced to Rodrigo in the church, and he was very polite, but didn't say much. I was told he'd been crying all morning, and that this was typical.
I went back to Nusakambangan for
Snowing in Bali
, but was busted on day two with my digital recorder. Although the prison boss was very polite, he knew of
and was fearful I was writing an exposÃ© on his jail â which would indeed make interesting reading, but I wasn't. He allowed me back inside for 20 minutes to say goodbye, but I had to conduct the rest of my interviews with Marco on the phone.
I was also introduced to fugitive dealer Andre, living on a false passport in Bali, after he'd escaped from jail in Brazil. He was dead keen to tell his story, and even some day go on
Banged Up Abroad
â a television show he regularly watched to get tips on what-not-to-do. He was an extremely intelligent and good looking guy, well educated, with three sisters in Brazil â two of them doctors. Like most of the dealers I met, Andre could have chosen any career he wanted, but he chose to traffic drugs. It appeared to be a direct line to a glamorous life â until it flipped to a tiny prison cell. I spent many long days over several weeks interviewing Andre â including doing follow-ups over a few months â until the day he got spooked. Some Bali dealers, had heard he was talking to a journalist and, given his fugitive status, he panicked that they'd give him up.
Nyoman, the Laskar gangster and pimp I spent time with, introduced me to his fake drug dealer friend, Wayan. Both of them talked to me about how they didn't like their jobs, but had no choice. They were poor: the pimp lived in a tiny room called a
â smaller than most Australian bedrooms â with his wife, toddler son and newborn baby girl. He took me to an illegal cockfight (a daily event in the back streets of Seminyak), where I saw the cops show up and leave â after they got their cut. Nyoman's wife was employed, spending up to five days sewing tiny little sequins on a dress, for which she would receive about $10. I later went to the Seminyak shop and saw the dress with a price tag of several hundred dollars.
With the average monthly Balinese salary not much over $100, even for those working in the big hotels, it's not surprising that corruption is endemic. And, for the drug dealers, this makes life easier â with their huge amounts of cash, there are few rules that can't be broken and money can be spent on land, or villas and restaurants without anyone asking where the cash came from. For those hiding out in Bali â and the dealers told me there are many fugitives â living in luxury villas, spending their proceeds of crime or even running legit businesses is easy.
Earlier this year I was outside Kerobokan Prison on the second night of rioting by prisoners â they'd taken over the prison, and locked out the guards after they'd fled their posts when the rioting had started. It was an âonly in Bali' experience. Across from the jail is a sales yard for huge concrete Buddhas â it was full of soldiers with submachine-guns held ready leaning against the huge Buddhas. It was a perfect visual metaphor for the contrasts that exist on the Island of the Gods.
One night I had a call from a prisoner I'd met during the writing of
â he was still in jail, although no longer in Kerobokan, but asked me to meet him at a popular cafÃ©, the Bali Deli, for a drink. I arrived to find him, the prison boss, and four other prisoners all sitting at one of the deli's cabanas. After drinks, we got into a government car, with its official red number plates, and drove the prison boss to his favorite karaoke club in Sanur. On the way he sat in the passenger seat singing along to a Rihanna music DVD playing on the dashboard. After dropping him off, we went to the stylish Potato Head Beach Club. At about 1 am the prison boss called, waking up the prisoner-driver who was asleep on a mattress near the swimming pool. The guys left, picked up the boss and went back to jail. The next week, that night's driver was busted while out of jail, selling drugs, and quickly confessed that he'd bribed the boss to get out of jail. The boss was sacked, and the inmate had further charges brought against him.
The Bangli Prison warden accused of taking bribes to allow a convicted narcotics dealer out of his cell has been captured on video at a drug party with the prisoner and a prostitute, police said on Thursday. Police made the discovery after examining closed-circuit television footage from the Boshe VVIP Bali Club Bali in Kuta.
, 13 May 2011
It is a good example of why the landscape in Bali is ideal for drug dealing. With cash, the laws are very flexible â although clearly it doesn't always work â as
Snowing in Bali
Snowing in Bali
is an exciting read â but more than that, I hope it shows however glamorous it may appear to be on the outside, for those involved in drug dealing there are usually no happy endings.