Don’t we all want to be rich? Some people would literally do anything just to make a bit more money, including sticking things up their anus and smuggling illegal goods across international borders. Most of the time, the authorities are on their tails though, and these foolish people often get caught and wind up in a dirty prison in a remote and foreign country. Tears and bribery can sometimes work to get you out of jail, but in some countries, once you’re caught for doing something minor, your entire life is completely over. These countries include North Korea, Thailand, Pakistan and most of Latin America. So before you take a vacation and think about doing something stupid, take a good look in the mirror and remember this helpful list.
There’s also a group of people who just manage to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and get kidnapped by pirates, bandits and terrorist. That’s when things get serious and ransom money comes into play. So if you are afraid to read about blood, violence and money — please get under the covers and continue reading this delightful masterpiece.
15. Actor Gets Imprisoned — Pakistan
Some of you might recognize Erik Audé, because he’s a professional actor (Grey’s Anatomy, American Sniper), stuntman, and a poker player. Sadly — the law is equal to every single one of us, and acting with Bradley Cooper is not a valid excuse in the court of law. While staying in Pakistan, Erik Audé thought that it was a great idea to smuggle 7.9 pounds of opium back to the U.S. Some people choose to bring back silly magnets as souvenirs, and then Erik Audé thought that opium would make token. He got caught redhanded at the Islamabad National Airport by Pakistani police. Erik Audé was locked up in Adiala Central Jail, right in the middle of Pakistan. It is hard to imagine what kind of hell he had to go through because people from all over the world even started accepting bets on how long will Erik would survive in a gross Pakistani prison. He remained in the prison for three years before he was transferred back to the U.S. and is now successfully acting and playing poker. He’s a real gambler.
14. Held Hostage For 20 Months By Pirates — Somalia
Debbie Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari were a couple of happy sailors from South Africa. They had no money, but they lived off of the ocean by catching fish and distilling seawater. Debbie and Bruno were captured while sailing through dangerous waters off the coast of Somalia and little did they know they’d end up being held captive for 20 months of their lives. The two peaceful sailors were locked up, starved, experienced an array of violence. Worst of all, Debbie was repeatedly sexually assaulted by the pirates. Those 20 months must have been torturous, and Debbie Calitz wasn’t ashamed to admit she used drugs after coming back home, as reality was just a little too hard to cope with. This couple must have learned their lesson to never sail near Somalia ever again. It’s just not worth it.
13. A Living Hell — North Korea
Are there any volunteers who want to spend some prison time in North Korea? If this question sounds delusional now, just wait till you hear more of Matthew Miller’s story. This guy damaged his visa upon arrival to North Korea, and according to North Korean rules, he was locked up in prison. Pretty harsh, right? It is hard to expect anything else from the most isolated country controlled by a vicious dictator. Little did Matthew Miller know that punishment methods in North Korea include murder, rape, and torture. It is impossible to say what kind of hell Matthew had to go through in his six months of imprisonment, but he stated “It was a mistake, but a successful one,” so we can only hope his honour and dignity remained intact. What was the reason for this “self-destructive” decision? Matthew only wanted to see more of North Korea. That is the way to go.
12. Amanda Knox — Italy
Amanda Knox was a young American girl who went to study in Italy on an exchange program. It is supposed to be the best time of a student’s life, full of parties, booze, and adventures, right? Well, it seemed like this until one depressing day in 2007, when her roommate Meredith Kercher was found dead with her throat slit right open. Needless to say, police officers in Italy blamed Amanda for this hate crime. Completely against all the odds, but tell it to those police officers. Oh yes, it also took them four years and various fake accusations, evidence, and psychological violence to convince the jury that Amanda had to be convicted. She received 28 years behind bars. One day Amanda was partying full-time… another day she was eating crappy Italian prison food (no pizza, folks). Most intriguing part is that she was (obviously) not guilty. No one will refund her those four years of youth and nine years of constant legal drama with the police, though.
11. Magician Gets Incarcerated — Japan
Mark Greening, 39, was a magician, living his careless life in Bali when he found out his girlfriend got knocked up. Mark felt the need to get some money fast and tried to pull off the greatest magic trick in the history – smuggling hash into Tokyo without getting caught. Like a true magician that he was, Mark made over $80,000, and consumed him. He kept making the trip until one police officer finally discovered Mark’s little secret. Needless to say, he ended up getting arrested and faced a massive prison sentence in Japan. On top of that, he was pretty stupid and told police officers where he had hidden even more hash. This confession doubled the magician’s prison sentence. So while everyone was watching the olympics in Japan, Mark was spending his days in a dark and dirty cell, surrounded by aggressive inmates and squalor.
10. Debauchery In Bangkok — Thailand
Jonathan Wheeler just wanted to open up a small business, and use the extra money he was about to receive from smuggling a bag of heroin out of Thailand to contribute to his business endeavors. The reality is that Jonathan ended up in one of the most notorious and evil prisons in the world — Bang Kwang Central Prison. He was sentenced to spend 50 years behind bars but was released after serving only 18 years. Still, Jonathan got upset that one of his prison friends only served 11 years for chopping up his wife and putting her body parts in the freezer. “Life is pretty cheap here,” he said in an interview. Jonathan broke the prison rules on multiple occasions and had to spend weeks in a solitary confinement, surrounded by darkness, silence, hordes of cockroaches and rats. He even covered himself in toothpaste once just to get transferred to the hospital for getting sick. Anyway, that man had a lot of will and survived for those 18 years. Of course, he was never the same again, but the lesson about smuggling drugs was well learned – it is stupid to smuggle in countries with such criminal sentences.
9. Beheadings — Philippines
Kjartan Sekkingstad went to the Philippines in 2015 with just one simple wish: he wanted to sunbathe under the hot sun. Sadly, Kjartan went to the wrong place and met some evil people. The armed group called Abu Sayyaf saw potential in Kjartan and took him as a hostage. Oh yes, coming from Norway — a wealthy country — was very alluring for his captors. So, Kjartan spent 10 terrifying months in the jungle, being starved and tortured. Abu Sayyaf was pretty clear about the deal that they wanted, a $638,000 ransom and Kjartan walks free, otherwise he dies. This armed group had already beheaded 2 Canadians in front of his eyes because their ransom was never paid. One cannot imagine how hard it was living in this hell, praying he would survive. Thankfully ransom for Kjartan was paid, and he came back home to Norway safe.
8. Mules — Peru
Michaella McCollum was a drug mule. She had it all figured out except for one minor detail that included the Peruvian suspecting her of smuggling narcotics. Michaella will forever remember the day when she was locked up in Peru, where a hundred women had to share the same toilet. By saying toilet, I mean a simple hole in the ground. Also, the heat in Peru might feel great when you are spending your time hiking the mountains. However, when you are in jail, the humidity only attracts mosquitoes and a bad smell. The food was crawling with maggots, and Michaella had to drink brown water. Yup, it is not your first world jail with a PlayStation and food made by chefs. That said, in her three years behind bars, she managed to become a boss lady and open her own little shop inside the jail. We are glad to see that at least something was positive, but Michaella has learned her lesson for life — if you are getting locked up, make sure to do it in your home country.
7. Sinful Religion — North Korea
Jeffrey Fowle was a Christian guy, who went to North Korea as a tourist. What can go wrong? Well, Jeffrey forgot that North Koreans hate religion and left one promotional Bible in a sailors club. This little accident had cost him five months in a North Korean jail. Oh yes, it looks like Jesus only brought trouble for Jeffrey. It is very hard to say how terrifying Jeffrey’s life in prison was, as he only said nice things about North Korea, and even prayed to Kim Jong-un for forgiveness. No one can blame him for doing so, but we all know that in reality, North Korea is barely livable when you are free, so how bad it must be behind bars? One thing for sure, Jeffrey learned his lesson.
6. Prisoners Of Saddam Hussein — Iraq
Tom Lynch and John White were working in Iraq in 1990 when Saddam Hussein took full control of the country. Naturally, those two lads from Ireland tried their best to escape, but they ended up in prison. Today, a football stadium stands there, but 27 years ago, Tom and John had no time to think about football, as thoughts of surviving fully occupied their mind. The Poor guys had to sleep on the dirty ground full of insects. They barely received any food, and during the night, their sleep would get occasionally interrupted by screams of tortured inmates, many of whom were executed. Tom and John were constantly praying to God, and God came in the form of Ireland. You see, Saddam Hussein was very dependent on beef imported from Ireland, so he could not risk losing that deal. Tom and John soon walked free after Ireland negotiated for their release.
5. Technology & Communism — Cuba
Alan Gross must be one of the unluckiest people on this list. This guy did not try to smuggle anything or get rich. He only attempted to improve the internet service among the Jewish communities in Cuba, but Castro had some other ideas. Alan was accused of spying and bringing sophisticated technology to the country and was given a mandatory sentence of 15 years in prison. Of course, the U.S. strongly advocated for his release, and in 2014, after 15 years in Havana prison, Alan was finally free. However, in those 15 years, he lost over 100 pounds, was forced to become vegetarian, and slept with millions of ants and roaches. So, Alan came back to the U.S. looking like the walking dead.
4. Bribery — Venezuela
David Evans needed some extra cash, so he decided that being paid $5,000 for smuggling cocaine from Venezuela to Europe was a great deal. On top of that, David’s bosses told him all the security guards in the airport were bribed, and he was safe to go. Easy money, huh? So David just packed his cocaine and happily went to the airport. Strangely, those guards started checking his bags. At first, David thought that it is all just for the show, but this idea was long gone after he saw his hands being handcuffed. We don’t have to be geniuses to figure out that David Evans was a little naive to fall for this scam. Well, he paid an enormous price and he was locked up in Venezuela and had to live in the worst conditions. Dangerous prisoners were always surrounding him during the day, waiting for that soap to fall of David’s hands in the shower. During the night, David was sleeping on a concrete floor, surrounded by rats and cockroaches.
3. Baby Mama Drama — Philippines
The things we do for love. David Scott fell in love with a local Filipino woman, and the woman became pregnant. Sadly, there was this one problem – the pregnant Filipino woman was already married to a local man who was quite angry to find out that his wife was cheating on him. The furious husband contacted the police and they locked up David and the pregnant woman. The rats were crawling on their bodies and squeaking on their faces all the time. Did I mention that David’s girlfriend was already nine months in? What a perfect love story. Anyway, the couple found a way to bribe the officers in jail (perks of a third world country) and escaped. The baby was born after just two weeks of their release, and they had to continue to hide from the police. They slept in banana plantations and ate whatever they could find. In conclusion, no matter how gorgeous the ladies are in the Philippines — it is fairly stupid to fall in love with a married woman.
2. Love Gone Wrong — Peru
20-year-old Russel Thoresen was a decent guy from the U.S., who was living in Peru. Russel fell in love with 17-year-old cocaine addict named Kim. She convinced him to join the drug business and smuggle some cocaine from Lima to Miami. Russel was a good guy but still young and naive. The couple went to Lima, and that is when things started to get out of control when a gang of thugs approached Russel and told him he had to smuggle the cocaine or die. He was caught by the authorities and a few hours later, Russel was already locked up in a Peruvian prison, with the most notorious criminals in the region. It’s too terrifying to describe what these criminals did to this foreigner.
1. Crossing The Jungle — Colombia
Three adventurous backpackers thought it was an excellent idea to cross the border between Panama and Colombia through the jungle. Robert Young Pelton, Megan Smaker, and Mark Wedeven were happily cutting their way through the jungle when they met Colombian rebel group AUC. Needless to say, the trio was kidnapped and tortured. Ransom money is one of the main sources of income for these rebel organizations, so the AUC used the trio as a means to rake in the cash. Robert Young Pelton had previously published a book entitled The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Disasters, Kidnappings, Animal Attacks, and Other Perils of Modern Travel. It took a while, but the trio was eventually rescued. If being locked up in prison sounds terrifying, the jungle is probably ten times scarier. No doubt this experience scared the hell out of these travellers.
Sources: National Geographic; BBC News.