“We think you’re the type of joker who would suit working undercover. No controls, out there doing deals and drinking piss.” And with that the young beat cop shed what was left of his uniform and slid into the underworld of strippers, junkies, crooks and gangsters. Codename: Emu. Mission: to take out hardened criminals. What could possibly go wrong? This is the true story of a Kiwi cop who survives the dangerous double life of an undercover agent and goes on to become New Zealand’s most successful international fraud investigator. Along the way he is a key figure in a murder, weathers multiple contract hits, finds true love, gains a law degree, tangles with the Russian mafia, and continues to nail the bad guys, the con artists, the career criminals, wherever he finds them. And he still keeps a shottie under the bed.
As we got closer, the cop began walking out on to the road. About now Rick began screaming, “Run that motherfucker down, kill the fucker!”
A chorus sprang up from the back seat: “Waste the fucker, take him out!”
This was a good opportunity to cement my rep, I thought. I kept accelerating.
There’s no way he’s going to walk right in front of me, I figured. It was a high-stakes game of chicken… This incident became folklore in the scene and made my cover almost bulletproof: the night Marcus tried to kill a pig.
An hour later, which only felt like minutes to me, all hell broke loose. Simultaneous with my bedroom door being smashed, my window flew open. Instantly there were two figures dressed in black standing over me. Torchlight danced around the room before the light came on. I couldn’t grasp what was happening … Squinting under the light and coughing, I took in my surroundings. Standing before my bed were two Armed Offenders Squad cops wearing black paramilitary uniforms and balaclavas and holding shotguns.
“Anyone else here?” one asked urgently.
“No,” I said in a croaky voice that sounded like someone else’s. “What the fuck’s going on?”
I was on high alert before and at the start of the meeting. I didn’t know if it was a setup and had no information on exactly how Fauci and Mekhtiev featured in the fraud.
After about five minutes of discussion, the mood in the office imperceptibly mutated into something more sinister. The temperature seemed to drop by a few degrees, sound was more acute and colours clearer. I could see the statue over Mekhtiev’s shoulder; the liberty symbolism telling. I knew at that point that the two men in the room with their lawyer were central players in the fraud I was investigating … No deal was going to be done. These men were in too deep. As soon as civility allowed, I took my leave … There is a survival sense developed and honed from working undercover. I learned to rely on that sense and it served me well both in the programme and subsequently. It’s like a broad alert and it activated in that New York law office.
Dimensions: 153mm x 234mm
Format: Trade Paperback
Author: Mark Van Leewarden
Published: October 2021
Foreword by Alan Duff
I first read about Mark’s extraordinary story in the New Zealand Herald online while living in France some five years ago. I made contact with a view to maybe write his story because it was so fascinating. We met and I decided to have a crack. Sadly, my attempt fell well short. I know why: It was his story, he had lived it, especially that one year undercover with some of Auckland’s most hardened criminals. He was only twenty. You talk about good acting. This young man acted brilliantly because every long, usually drunken day, his life was in danger. It would only take someone from police training days to recognise him and recall old times. And he was dead. Or for some drunk paranoid crim to point the finger and call him a “nark.” Narks in every criminal society are the worst form of life that must be obliterated. Mark withstood this intolerable pressure for a whole year. A year that ended in him witnessing an actual murder. He was right there. He knew the guy who did it, and his girlfriend victim. But love had its nose in here too, as unwittingly he crossed paths with his future wife, a constable attending the scene of the murder. Meeting later as members of the same Auckland Police squad, they have now enjoyed thirty-plus happy years of marriage. The private investigator Mark van Leewarden is also another incredible story, more often than not fraught with danger chasing fraudsters around the world and frequently nailing them. Read this book and marvel at one very courageous, determined, even relentless, genuine good guy.