Who is Mr. Nice?
His voice is grave, he speaks slowly, he smiles. He is a handsome man of almost 70 years, very pleasant, who speaks of his life without curses or regrets. He studied Physics in Oxford University, has been a teacher and is currently writing. Besides that, he is on the current music scene and is stand up comedian. It is the same that until a few years ago controlled approximately 10% of the world traffic of marijuana and hashísh and was doing business with the IRA, MI6, CIA or Yakuza, among others. It's Howard Marks.
The importance of the University
Howard Marks was born in a small mining village in Wales, son of a teacher and a merchant marine captain. Besides holding a teacher training, he was received as a Nuclear Physicist and did his PhD in Philosophy of Science in Oxford. It was also there that he tried marijuana for the first time and was fascinated.
By that time, marijuana was a rather expensive product that was consumed mainly in university circles. But it seemed to Howard that such a treasure should be accessible to everyone. And so it started. At first he sold only small amounts of marijuana to his acquaintances and then formed a partnership with 3 other friends with whom he managed to expand his business in Oxford, London and Brighton.
Business and adrenaline
His first major experience as a trafficker was in Frankfurt, with Graham Plinston who had helped him to get out of jail. He was intoxicated with the adrenaline he felt as he crossed every border, every control. He began to establish a network of international contacts, from New Zealand to Pakistan, through which large quantities of marijuana and hash were sold in London. They made a lot of money, but it was the smugglers who kept the highest percentage. With other partners sought.
At that time Howard met James McCann, member of IRA and arms dealer. By ideological affinity with the left and the struggle for freedom, McCann's activities did not pose any moral problem to Marks. Besides that and considering that he had enough contacts to get marijuana and that McCann had his own to smuggle in Ireland by air, they started doing business together. Such has been the closeness in their collaboration that to date the children of both are friends.
Great contacts, great business
His university background, his contacts with hashish producers in Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan, his contacts with the IRA, and his charismatic personality led to a former Oxford colleague now working for the MI6, will recruit him in '72.
A year later, and also thanks to his Oxford connections, he came into contact with the Brotherhood of Eternal Love and began to smuggle large amounts of marijuana into the United States. However, soon everything was turned. His collaboration with MI6 came to an end after a counterintelligence case in the United States. They discovered their shipments and McCann was about to be executed by the IRA, so that he could no longer count on his help.
The picture became complicated and he was arrested in Holland in '73, but he soon got parole. And already in '74 was doing new business. He got the Japanese Mafia Yakuza to carry hundreds of kilos of Nepalese hashísh to New York where the Brotherhood distributed it. He served as a messenger between his North American customers and the Far East producers. He lied.
The charming Mr. Nice and his emporium
He claims that at that time he had more than 40 false identities along with their respective passports. With the police following his the footsteps he decided to get a new identity. Donald Nice was a convicted murderer who would never leave the country, so he did not need his passport, and he was a real person who could do administrative work without any problems if circumstances so required. Marks bought his passport and since then he has earned the nickname of Mr. Nice with which he became known worldwide.
The following years were his heyday as marijuana trader: Mr. Nice arrived to transport 30 tons of marijuana to North America and counted on the collaboration of the Mafia, the Yakuza, the Brotherhood of the Eternal Love, the Thai army, the Palestinian armed forces, The Palestine Liberation Organization and even the Nepalese monks. He emphasizes that he never had any problem of deception or violence with any of his partners.
In the late 1970s it smuggled marijuana from Colombia to England in such large quantities that it could have met the country's demand for consumption for a year. But the police stopped him in the 1980s, and this time there was a lot of evidence against him. Still, Marks had a strategy: he pleaded not guilty and said he was an undercover agent working with MI6 and the Secret Service. Although he did not collaborate with them for years, the jury believed him, he was saved from all charges of drug trafficking and only found him guilty of using false passports.
Two years later, back in freedom, he tried to do legitimate business, but his economic situation was worse, so he went back to business. Howard returned to the Far East and met Salim Malik, a Pakistani hash exporter. The friendship between them continues to this day. At the same time, he made contacts in Bangkok and continued to bridge the gap between the Oriental producers and their US contacts. He also collaborated with a CIA agent and established new contacts in China.
In '86 he settled in Mallorca and continued to earn millions with his international business. But the DEA was closing the siege around him. After years of listening and tracking, arrests began. While Howard tried to stand aside and engage in legitimate wine sales, it was too late.
In '88 the DEA stopped him, in collaboration with Scotland Yard and other organizations of numerous countries. As a result of the operation "Eclectic" there were also numerous arrests in England, Thailand, Pakistan, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, Philippines, USA. And Canada.
Marks was arrested in Palma, went to Modelo jail in Barcelona and then to Madrid, until he was finally extradited to the United States by the National Court. Although Marks says there was no such thing as an organized criminal group, he acknowledges that most of the charges brought against him were true.
The trial began in the 1990s, many people he had worked with testified against him and legal expenses consumed the remaining fortune. Although the sentence was 25 years and then managed to lower it to 20, it was finally released in '95, after 7 years in Terre Haute, one of the highest security federal prisons.
His behavior as an inmate was exemplary. In addition to writing its famous autobiography, Mr. Nice, and attending yoga classes, gave language classes to other inmates, helped them with their exams, worked as a lawyer and even managed to overturn some sentence. These activities, plus his charming character and good reputation for having refused to be a snitch, earned him the reduction of condemnation and respect of the other inmates, in addition to the friendship of several.
Marks remembers his years in jail as an experience that would transform him, making him a better person according to his own words.
Reinvention of Mr. Nice
Once out of prison, the life of the famous trafficker changed completely. He knows that he was being closely watched and has given up his return to his adventures on borders, shipments and customs. He continues to enjoy his beats, especially the hash of Nepal, but the adrenaline sensation now gets it every time he climbs a stage.
Nowadays he is a comic from stand up. One of his best known shows, An Audience with Mr. Nice, is already mythical and speaks of his life as a trafficker and his point of view on drugs and its legislation. It has excellent reviews and great popularity in England and Europe, but not in the USA where it is forbidden to enter for life
Howard has always been a lover of music, and in recent years has entered the contemporary music scene by collaborating, for example, with Super Furry Animals or with the guitarriste of Happy Mondays. He also plays as DJ, where he notes his preference for Dub Step and released a record label, "Bothered". In addition, he has participated in series and films as Dirty Sanchez or Human Traffic. Recently there has been a film based on his autobiography, which is also called Mr. Nice.
Among all his activities, Marks has also participated in politics, although exclusively in matters related to the legalization of marijuana in England. But above all, he writes. His autobiography, Mr. Nice, has been a sales hit, translated into several languages. He has then published a continuation, titled Mr. Nice, some compilations of stories and is currently working on a police trilogy, Sympathy for the Devil. As if that was not enough, he collaborates with media such as The Observer, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian or GQ, among others
If you want to know a little more about the legendary Mr. Nice, you can see news and information about his activities in its own webpage, and see this fantastic interview, that although it is long, it does not have waste!