Schneekönig: Mein Leben als Drogenboss
(Snow king: My life as drug boss)
Ronald Miehling with Helge Timmerberg
Reinbek: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 2004
157 p.
Language: German

Subject, Methods, Database:
The autobiography of the former Hamburg drug dealer Ronald Miehling, who in the early 1990s imported cocaine from the Netherlands and the Caribbean on a grand scale and who was eventually arrested and sentenced to a high prison term in 1996.

Ronald Miehling is born in 1950 as the son of a police officer. At age 20 he starts a career as pimp, but moves on to other more or less illegal businesses a year later. When he and an accomplice try to collect money, the debtor is hit by a fatal bullet and Miehling is sentenced to 10 years in jail.
After his release, through an old acquaintance, Miehling meets Guenter who has brought drugs from the Middle East as a courier but after an argument with his partners is looking for new contacts. He has heard that Miehling while in prison has established contacts to cocaine suppliers from the Netherlands. Shortly thereafter they meet up with one of Miehlings prison buddies in Amsterdam. Jimmi is an immigrant from the Dutch Antilles who can procure 100 grams of 50 percent pure cocaine for a price of 7,000 Deutschmarks. After diluting it further in a ratio of 1:1, the two sell the cocaine in Hamburg for a profit of 13,000 Deutschmarks. The second time they buy half a kilo which they press and subsequently sell as "rocks" to give the impression that it is pure cocaine. That way they manage to make a profit of 120,000 Deutschmarks.
In the time to come Guenter is organizing the purchases and transport while Miehling is extending their customer base: "That was running around without end" (p. 14).
At some point in time Miehling asks Jimmi if he has any professional contacts back home, which he acknowledges. So Jimmi, Miehling, Guenter and Werner, a courier recruited by Guenter for a fee of 10,000 Deutschmarks per successful trip, fly to Curacao. Jimmi runs into friends from Amsterdam who, asked about contacts, volunteer to supply cocaine. After elaborate preludes and multiple tests some two kilos of 90-95 percent pure cocaine change hands. Stuffed in two socks in the suitcase of the courier the cocaine passes through all customs controls and finally, after being cut 1:1, ends up on the Hamburg drug market. Three weeks later the stock has been depleted to a point where a second import becomes necessary. For this purpose Miehling has suitcases modified by a skilled customer. Equipped with the suitcases with false bottoms, Miehling, Günter and Werner fly to Curacao again. This time Jimmi arranges a meeting with another supplier who after a brief period of getting to know each other agrees to sell four kilos of high grade cocaine.
Back in Hamburg the first problems arise because Guenter refuses to give up the higher profits he makes from selling small amounts to junkies. Miehlings fears materialize when one of the junkies is arrested and fingers Guenter as his dealer. Miehling buys out Guenter for 50,000 Deutschmarks and goes into partnership with Werner who recruits two new couriers and brings 12 kilos of cocaine from Curacao.
Shortly thereafter Jimmi invites Miehling and Werner to a Christmas party in Amsterdam which is attended by cocaine dealers from around the world. At the party, Miehling is introduced to Kim from New York. They meet several times in the following two months without discussing any business until Kim suggests a trip to Curacao. While Jimmi is arranging by telephone a deal for 24 kilos which are to be brought to Germany by six couriers, Kim brings Miehling into contact with several Latin Americans who, as he senses, check him out. Two days later Kim proposes a short trip to Venezuela which, as it turns out, brings them all the way to Bogota, Colombia. Here, Miehling meets drug boss Fernando. Again, no business is discussed. The purpose of the trip is to find out if Miehling is a decent criminal.
The return trip runs smoothly. Back in Hamburg they decide no longer to dilute the cocaine but to sell it in pure form: "That means less work, and quality prevails" (pp. 77-78). After a slow start, the 24 kilos are sold in a matter of two weeks.
In this situation Miehling receives an invitation from Kim to come to Amsterdam. Two Colombians, whom Miehling has met before in Curacao and Bogota, offer to deliver any amount of cocaine to Hamburg upon request for a price of 40,000 Deutschmarks per kilo. "From then on", says Miehling retrospectively, "we dictated the prices on the Hamburg market". Miehlings "firm" sells only to dealers and only in amounts of one kilo and more. In the following four months four smuggling trips to Curacao are made, each time with growing numbers of couriers, while in between short supplies are refilled with purchases from Kim.
Now Miehling is faced with a new problem: he and his wife, despite the lavish life-style they have adopted by now, are no longer able to spend all their money, and the handling of cash becomes increasingly difficult. When Kim asks for US currency for back and advance payments in the amount of 1 million Deutschmarks, Miehling is only able to exchange 250,000 Dollars through his banker and has to go from bank to bank to exchange the remaining sum in amounts below the reporting limit.
At another meeting with Colombian cocaine dealers in Amsterdam, Miehling is offered a partnership. He is supposed to supervise deliveries in Europe while being granted the right to use the smuggling channels for his own shipments. From Curacao, where he arranges for another large import, he flies to Colombia again. Here he receives the offer to smuggle cash into Colombia for a 10 percent commission and to help organizing new transport routes to Poland.
Back home in Hamburg Miehling is overcome by the feeling that he is being followed. Through a friend who is a police reporter, Miehling gets the necessary equipment to listen in on the police radio and the cell-phones used by the police, which gives him the confirmation that he is indeed under surveillance. But this is not his only problem. Werner has become a junkie who is double crossing his partner by selling cocaine on his own account that has been supplied by Kim. Miehling turns down the offer from his Colombian business partners to solve the problem with the help of a "clean-up crew". Instead, he simply splits up with Werner who, removed from Miehling's contacts, goes to the Netherlands with 200,000 Deutschmarks in cash in search of new supplies, only to be robbed by false dealers.
In the meantime the first shipment of cocaine has arrived in Poland and passed through customs. Miehling goes to Gdansk to pick up the cocaine from Polish store keepers. But they refuse long enough for the initial plan to smuggle the cocaine into Germany by boot to become obsolete. Instead Miehling and two accomplices selected by Kim take the cocaine by car to Szeczin near the German border and store it in a hotel garage. Through telephone surveillance and a breach of silence between the two accomplices the police are able to locate and seize the drugs and to arrest all participants except Miehling. He manages to go into hiding and eventually to take refuge in Colombia from where he unsuccessfully tries to stay in business. Finally, Miehling is arrested on a stop-over in Venezuela and in 1996 is sentenced to twelve and a half years in prison.

The autobiography written by Ronald Miehling in collaboration with Helge Timmerberg is the most detailed insider report on drug trafficking in Germany to date. The book contains interesting information on a number of aspects and provides a dense picture of the world in which high level drug dealers operate. The key issue, however, is Miehling's perception of himself as a reliable illegal entrepreneur who is successful with women, preferably prostitutes, and who has ultimately failed because of the incompetence of his business partners and his own good-naturedness.
From a scientific point of view Miehling's story is particularly remarkable because of the way in which his career depended on the creation of contacts to more potent cocaine suppliers on the basis of existing relations. It is a textbook example for the dynamics of criminal networks.
Somewhat annoying is the fact that few dates are given so that it is difficult to ascertain within which periods of time the described events took place. As it seems, Miehling's fortunes as "drug boss" were rather short lived.

Overall Evaluation:
Miehling's autobiography is the German response to Howard Marks' "Mr. Nice". Even though the life of Miehling is not quite as multifaceted and complex as that of the legendary British dope smuggler, this book is an important source of information that should not be ignored when one examines the drug market in Germany.

Further Reading:
Marks, Howard, Mr. Nice, London: Vintage, 1998. (read review)
Morselli, Carlo, Structuring Mr. Nice: Entrepreneurial opportunities and brokerage positioning in the cannabis trade, in: Crime, Law and Social Change 35 (3), 2001, 203-244.
Zaitch, Damian, Trafficking Cocaine: Colombian Drug Entrepreneurs in the Netherlands, The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2002. (read review)

© Klaus von Lampe, all rights reserved.