When we talk about criminals, you probably imagine something typical like a guy with a knife asking you to hand over the cash, or an old dude in a suit promising to lower your taxes -- but there are far, far more types of crimes than that. Some are so bizarre that they're straight-up Batman villain material. What's shocking isn't that these weird-ass felonies exist, but the fact that somewhere in the world, they happen often enough to be considered trends. For example...
Italy has a long-running issue with counterfeit food, since in Europe, cheese and wine are more lucrative bargaining tools than actual currency. Wily crooks are passing off plastic as pasta, paper as pesto, and Domino's as pizza. While career criminals around the world hone their abilities in breaking and entering, in Italy it's more profitable to put your skill points into baking and pastries.
Olives are a massive industry for the nation, and as such, they are a prime target for the food falsifiers. It's so bad that a recent police sting targeting prominent crime families uncovered 85,000 freaking tons of fake olives. How do you fake an olive, you ask? By literally taking an expired one that had gone unsold on the previous year's harvest and painting it green to make it appear fresh and delectable. Since copper sulfate, the substance used to coat them, is not a food colorant, authorities seldom test for its presence; apparently, their major concern is the tint of the foodstuffs, not potential toxicity.
Copper sulfate, by the way, is described as "only moderately toxic" by Cornell University, which is like calling a knife wound "only usually fatal." The reason it's given this moderate status is that it's usually vomited back up before the body actually begins to digest it -- so they probably won't kill you, just your toilet.
Currently, 19 people face charges over the production of these olives, headed by long-time green food forger Sam I Am (or whatever the Italian equivalent of that is).
French people take their wine very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that some of them are willing to stoop to ISIS-like levels to keep foreign drops out of their country.
For the last decade, a supervillain-sounding organization called Crav ("Wine Action Committee") has pushed for the French government to increase the price of wine and for supermarkets to stop selling those filthy foreign formulas. The Crav went as far as to threaten that "blood would flow" if Nicolas Sarkozy, prime minister at the time, did not give in to their demands. And they were deadly serious, leading to a string of small-scale bombings of supermarkets that dared selling non-French wines. One might gather from this that the Crav is made of pissed-off French wine producers, but maybe they just really, really hate foreign booze.
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Beyond their bombing raids on "traitorous" stores and even government buildings, the Crav also attack the tankers and merchants themselves. They didn't make blood flow, but they did make the streets turn red at the port town of Sete, where the main avenue of the town and many of its underground buildings were flooded by wine from vats sabotaged by the gang of alcohol activists. Add a plague of frogs and it's straight out of the Bible:
One of the Crav's more violent and daring attacks came when they attacked and hijacked a Spanish tanker as it brought wine across the border, destroying 30,000 bottles' worth of wine. The tanker was then emptied in front of television cameras as they reported on the tragic loss of enough wine to keep a French family drunk for a month.
The government themselves even faced assault from the Crav when they targeted the country's ministry of agriculture demanding more state aid for wine growers, the group having a fundamental misunderstanding of not biting the ministry that feeds you.
One of the best ways to try to stall the Earth heating up as it builds to its season finale is to limit the amount of toxic crap our cars constantly fart out into the environment. As we all know, that's no easy task, so our governments need to get creative. Iran, for instance, has sought to curb air pollution and traffic congestion by splitting their roads between even and odd number plates, with each taking custody of the tarmac on different days. This regulation is enforced by cameras which capture the number plates and determine whether they should be on the road or not. Very clever, Iran.
Iranian drivers' equally clever solution? Just hiring people to block the number plates.
Motorists hire other citizens to walk behind their cars in order to obscure their number plate from the vision of the camera, allowing them to slowly crawl through the city center on whichever days they like. Since the license plates are blocked, the government is going to have a hard time identifying the people using the scheme, as well. Iranians are executing the perfect crime each day -- all so they don't have to walk like the people they're paying, who are presumably arriving at the destination at the same time as the car they're following. But richer.
While the Land of the Long White Cloud may seem like a lush and idyllic locale, it still has its fair share of crooks in amongst the Hobbit holes. However, like New Zealand's aspirations to be recognized as a real nation, their crimes are quite adorable. And delicious. For instance:
Rapidly increasing demand both domestically and globally for avocados has created an unprecedented pandemic of fruit thievery. Over 96,000 households began purchasing avocados in 2015, and it seems a similar number just decided they would steal them -- there's been over 40 large-scale heists from avocado orchards since January last year, with up to 350 being taken at a time. Under the cover of night, thieves "rake" the trees and collect the produce in a blanket at ground level, or actually climb up and pluck the fruit themselves. They then sell them at roadside stalls or small businesses in Auckland, like southern Robin Hoods stealing from the richly planted and giving to the poorly fed.
This acute avocado anxiety is shared by Australia, judging by the signs you can find in supermarkets:
The fresh fruit comes with risks, though. They could be unripe, or still carrying toxins on the skin from recent spraying. Shockingly, people who climb into orchards and steal fruit are not so concerned about safety standards of their produce, and continue to operate despite the health risks to their loyal consumers due to the huge profits involved.
Farmers are starting to combat the criminals through advanced technologies such as alarm systems and automatic lights. These measures have been strongly opposed by the mothers of New Zealand, who are just happy to see their children having a piece of fruit for once.
Congestion and fares are two issues that irk commuters all over the world when it comes to railway transport. Those problems are manifold in a nation as populous as India, where it often looks like train drivers are competing with each other to see how many people they can cram inside a single carriage.
In addition to the crowds, Indian railway authorities have increased fares to a level many simply cannot afford, creating an entirely new type of racket within one of the world's oldest ones: insurance.
The gangs offering this new service call it "insured ticketless traveling." Rather than pay the money for the train ticket, commuters pay the insurers a smaller fee. If they are questioned by railway inspectors or police, the sponsors will pay any fines laid against them. Those who take up the offer, usually students or office-goers, enter into a strange kind of criminal protection service where they can travel illegally, and have said illegality insured by crooks. They're in essence running a second-tier ticketing service. Whereas American gangs deal in drugs and weapons, sub-continental enterprises are offering alternative options for the working class -- no wonder America is lagging behind Asia.
The racket is flourishing due to the sheer weight of Indian commuters. Police and inspectors cannot check everyone on the trains for tickets, and anybody actually caught using this insurance scheme is still a minute percentage of the population who are taking advantage. Even if the sponsors have to shell out for an unlucky few, they're still breaking even, and the commuters have the peace of mind that they're now contracted to the criminal underworld. Everybody wins! (Except the suckers paying for the train.)
All the hallmarks of traditional American mid-life crises -- fast cars, motorcycles, divorce -- are falling by the wayside in the 21st century. Now all the rage for those rich enough to splash their cash and insecure enough to waste it on trinkets isn't shiny or even brand new. The United States' upper class are now after something which speaks to them on a more spiritual level, and reminds them of themselves: stolen fossils.
Delved from the Asian market, as all good investments are these days, Americans are buying up ancient dinosaur remains from Mongolia, presumably to incinerate them and deny the age of the Earth. Many countries (including Mongolia) consider fossils part of their national natural history and do not allow private enterprise to interfere, something which simply does not jibe with America's 28th amendment of "I see, I take." The world's laziest poachers rummage through archaeological sites and export the fossils overseas for profit, destroying most of their scientific value by separating them from their geological context. They apparently host a small poaching party, too, as the telltale signs that bones have been burgled is empty vodka bottles and cigarette butts at the sites.
The only hurdle for the bone runners is getting their specimens through customs. As they are white and elderly, this usually isn't much trouble for the fossils, although in some cases the smugglers are caught -- such as when a shipment of "shoes" into Chicago was discovered to be the skulls of Chinese dinosaurs. At least we hope that was a ruse and not the thief's actual intended purpose for the ancient bones.
Florida resident Eric Prokopi was arrested for dino-poaching in 2012 and the extent of his single smuggling enterprise was mind-boggling. For example, working with a Mongolian guide and a British business associate, Prokopi managed to import the entire skeleton of a prehistoric creature, which he meticulously reassembled and sold at auction for over one million dollars to an anonymous prehistoric creature from New York.
The two great Atlantic adversaries, Russia and the USA, have shared conflict, tension, and election data for generations, but their latest foe has them both stumped. We're talking, of course, about the infamous cheese smugglers.
During the annexation of Crimea, Russia retaliated to Western sanctions against it by banning importation of their food products, cutting off their lunch to spite their stomachs. Citizens with a taste for cheddar just wouldn't have this. Smugglers brought in the banned rennet used in cheese production and sold it with counterfeit labels to locals, disguised as luxury European goods. One cheddar gang was caught with $30 million worth of the product by Russian authorities, who then bulldozed the forbidden fruit (cheese) on live TV in the hopes the citizens would finally digest the message to stick to the Kremlin diet plan.
The other nation going through their own Colby War, the US, have their own struggles with black market cheeses. Due to health reasons, only cheeses aged more than 60 days can be imported to America, leaving some of the best young cheeses locked out of the stomachs of US connoisseurs. Once again, people are going to some extraordinary lengths for their fix. Some resort to bringing back Brie in their suitcases; others hunt down the local underground producers making delectable covert camembert. Some coming from Mexico try the "hiding stuff inside the spare wheel" trick usually reserved for drugs or illegal Chihuahuas.
The FDA's War on Dairy continues to rage across the country, leaving those involved in those rings in a constant state of delicious danger. The government insists that these cheeses will damage your health, but for a select few, they're even worth dying for.
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