We are comforted by the moralized belief that good things happen to good people and justice is served to the bad ones. We like to think that karmic forces exist in the world so as to restore order by punishing bad, illicit behaviors and rewarding those who contribute meaningfully and positively to the world around them. The trouble is that the world doesn’t always work in such a simple, honorable and fair way. While many of us still pull in perfectly respectable, if modest, wages while keeping our noses clean with honest jobs, there’s a small population of crime-lovers who have made millions through unlawful activity and currently reign free to enjoy their riches.
At some point, it’s hard to ignore the lucrative lure of some crime opportunities. Drug smuggling, the arms trade, investment fraud and a veritable array of other mob-related activities can open up an endless vault of dirty money that lurks in the criminal underworld. Beyond the absence of any moral code, there exists the looming threat to any aspiring criminal of, you know, getting caught and thrown in jail. But everyone has their price and the prospect of a billion dollar crime empire as a drug kingpin or a mafia boss will give just about anyone some consideration over just how bad the bad guy life really is.
Of course, just like any other career choice, no one gets to the top of the crime food chain without putting in their time and climbing the ladder rung by rung. The world’s richest criminals have reached their lofty peaks by establishing a reputation carved out of a high level of intelligence, supreme business sense or a ruthless, vicious and murderous streak – or, in some cases, all of the above. These 10 crooks aren’t merely thugs-for-hire, but have netted themselves some serious green by being in the right place at the right time and forcing their way to the upper echelon of powerful criminal organizations. Few have managed to completely escape prison time, but even those that once found themselves locked behind bars managed to engineer their own release.
There exists a perpetuated myth that some people are born to be bad, destined to follow a life of criminal activity by virtue of a lack of other viable options. Nowhere is this mindset both more prevalent and plausible than when it comes to criminal masterminds, who have realized riches that are difficult to achieve in even the highest of corporate positions within Fortune 500 companies. But with higher stakes come greater risk. Just ask Pablo Escobar, who was shot to death by federal authorities after a long pursuit of the Colombian drug lord. Or Jimmy Hoffa, the US crime boss who was never found after going missing under mysterious circumstances in 1975. But for every Escobar or Hoffa, there are other criminals living the high life while flying under the radar of both law enforcement officials and their nefarious competition.