Crime never pays, but still there is a criminal inside each one of us. It depends on the circumstances as to who ends up on the wrong side of the law. It is to the credit of humanity that a minuscule number of people do become criminals or gangsters.
Every country has its share of crime and criminals. However, when we speak of The Mafia, Italy comes to the forefront. Even though, the gangs have been involved in crimes all over the world, you find an Italian connection somewhere in every member of the Mafia.
A gangster does not mean that he is a gun toting fellow out on a killing spree. The world’s top most gangsters have killed thousands of people without moving a finger. This is because of the dangerous network they control. This is probably the only industry in the world where betrayal of trust invites immediate execution.
Hence, you find the crime industry works supremely on the trust factor. Deals worth trillions of dollars take place on the strength of the verbal contract. Let us look at the top 10 most dangerous gangsters of all time. A majority of them are already dead by now but they controlled vast empires as long as they were alive.
10. Joseph Colombo (1923-1978)
Born into a family already steeped in crime, it was natural for Joseph Colombo to follow the footsteps of his father. His family was part of the Five Families involved in crime and gang wars in the US at that time. He has the distinction of being the youngest boss of the Crime Syndicate, The Mafia Commission. Involved in a spate of family feuds, it is surprising that he had served only one jail sentence and that too for a period of 30 days for refusing to answer the jury’s questions. He was shot at by Joe Gallo in 1971 after which he remained paralysed for seven years before his death in 1978 due to a cardiac arrest. Joseph Colombo begins our list at No. 10.
9. Carlo Gambino (1902-1976)
At No. 9, we have Carlo Gambino, the head of the Gambino family. This family belongs to the Mafia Commission and is among the Five Families that used to control crime in the US. As was the case with most gangsters during his time, he had Italian connections. Entering the US in 1921 as an illegal immigrant, he joined his cousins, The Castellanos into their syndicate. He became of the most powerful mobsters of his time making a living out of extortion, gambling, bootlegging, as well as murder. There was a suspicion that he had a hand in the shooting of Joseph Colombo that later on paralysed him for life. Such things are very common in the lives of gangsters. He was one of the most influential members of the Commission until his death in 1976 due to a heart attack.
8. Jacques Mesrine (1936-1979)
We now move on to the French connection with our No. 8, Jacques Mesrine. A master of disguises, Jacques has been responsible for innumerable bank robberies, burglaries, and kidnappings in Canada as well as France. His ability to don various disguises ensured that he remained at large most of the time. He had a charismatic personality with an attractive female companion every time he came out in public. He considered himself to be a type of a Robin Hood kind of personality. However, he had to pay for his crimes when he was shot at and killed by the police authorities in 1979.
7. Bugsy Siegel (1906-1947)
At No. 7 we have a notorious gangster by the name of Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel. Though born in the US, he is of Jewish origin. One of the most handsome and charismatic gangster of his times, he had a great hand in building of the Las Vegas Strip. He had links with the Italian American Mafia Commission and the Jewish Italian syndicate as well. During his time, bootlegging was the most popular criminal activity. However, he had a great interest in gambling and casino activities. He had a tremendous reputation of being a powerful hitman. He lived a violent life and died a violent death when he was shot dead at his girlfriend’s house.
6. Vito Genovese (1897-1969)
At No. 6, we have another member of the Italian American crime nexus, Vito Genovese. Born in Italy, he rose to prominence as an enforcer in the American Mafia during the Prohibition period. He played an active part in the Castellammarese War from 1930 to 1931. He belonged to the Masseria faction in the early stages of the war. Subsequently, he was the main person responsible for ending the war when switched sides to the Maranzano faction and killed Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Masseria in cold blood. Subsequently, the Genovese family along with the Colombo, the Lucchese, the Bonnano, and the Gambino families formed ‘The Commission’. He was instrumental in expanding the heroin trade on an international level. He died of a heart attack in 1969 while in prison.
5. Kray Brothers(1933-1995/2000)
Crime does not have any national boundaries. We have seen the Italian and US connections. The Kray brothers, at No. 5 represent the British connection. The Kray twins, Reginald and Ronald Kray were absolute terrors in the Eastern part of London with their involvement in robberies, arson, murders, extortion and protection rackets. They have been involved with high profile politicians and musicians such as Frank Sinatra. Owners of prominent nightclubs in London, they had a wide network. They literally lived their lives as celebrities until arrested in 1968 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Ronnie died in 1995 while Reggie lived on until 2000 before breathing his last. During their time, they were terror personified.
4. Frank Costello (1891-1973)
One of the most powerful persons who controlled criminal activities in the US, Frank Costello is of Italian origin. He was the head of one of the families notoriously known as the Five Families. He headed the Luciano family that later on became known as the Genovese family. He had an active role to play in the Castellammarese War between the Masseria and the Maranzano factions. After the killing of Joe Masseria, Maranzano became the leader of the pack. He proved to be more ruthless than Masseria thereby forcing Costello to arrange for his elimination as well. Frank Costello was in fact, known as the Prime Minister because of his innate knowledge in this field. They moved on towards controlling the gambling activities. He survived as assassination bid in 1957. He subsequently died of a heart attack in 1973.
3. Al Capone (1899-1947)
Known as the Scarface in the underworld, Al Capone is one of the most dangerous gangsters the world has ever seen. He attained his moments of fame during the prohibition era, the same time most of the other gangsters in this list have. He called himself an American even though he was born to Italian immigrants. He was an extremely strong and ruthless man. Working as a bouncer in brothels, he moved to Chicago to become the bodyguard of Johnny Torrio, the head of a crime syndicate that dealt in the transportation of alcohol. He was arrested in 1931 thereby ending his reign at the helm of the Chicago outfit. He died of dementia and syphilis in 1947.
2. Pablo Escobar (1949-1993)
When you speak of gangsters, one cannot ignore the biggest drug lord the world has ever seen. We are referring to Pablo Escobar, the Colombian gangster. During his prime, he headed the cartel that supplied more than 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the US. He employed unique ways of smuggling cocaine such as stuffing them inside airplane’s tires, via submarines, etc. Nicknamed the King of Cocaine, his personal income was somewhere around $22 billion a year. You cannot become such a huge drug cartel leader without having the power to control the various gangs that did business at that time. He is the BIG DADDY of them all. Naturally, such gangsters have violent deaths. Pablo was shot dead while he was on the run.
1. Dawood Ibrahim (1955-Present)
The most dangerous gangster in the world has to be the Indian Enemy No. 1, Dawood Ibrahim. Born to a poor police constable in Mumbai, India, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar had an early initiation into crime. He was into extortion, gambling, drug dealing, bootlegging and many other crimes. With the decline of gangsters such as Haji Mastan and Vardharajan Mudaliar, Dawood Ibrahim became the king of the Mumbai Underworld. He had his rivalry with gangsters like Arun Gawli and others. Somehow, he managed to negate their importance by implicating them in various offences. He literally ran a parallel black economy known as the ‘hawala’ in Indian criminal terminology. His true claim to infamy was his involvement in the Mumbai bomb blasts in 1992 along with Tiger Memon. Dawood is the mastermind of this terror act on Mumbai. He planned this activity sitting in his hideout in Karachi, Pakistan. He is still reportedly alive and running his syndicate from Pakistan. He figures in the Interpol’s most wanted list as well. Today, you can call him as a terrorist as well.
There are hundreds of other gangsters who had their moments under the sun. However, we had to restrict out listing to the Top 10 most dangerous gangsters in the world. These ten gangsters listed above definitely qualify under this category. Though Dawood Ibrahim has been classified as a terrorist, he was a gangster in his initial days in crime.