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Perceiving Anson Wong as only a reptile smug­gler had been a terrible mistake, allowing him to maneuver freely across the globe. Reptiles were repulsive, repulsive was invisible, invisible was money. If Anson could deliver on his offers, cheap, legal reptiles shipped to pet stores around the world were a front for a vast, illegal wildlife-smuggling empire.

"I can get anything here from anywhere," he wrote Morrison. "It only depends on how much certain people get paid. Tell me what you want, I will weigh the risks, and tell you how much it'll set you back.

"Nothing can be done to me," he boasted. "I could sell a panda—and, nothing. As long as I'm here, I'm safe."

Finally, after five years and half a million dollars' worth of illegal trade, Morrison was ready to breach Fortress Malaysia, as he called Anson's base. He proposed that Anson partner with him in a new venture, a kind of Endangered Species, Inc., specializing in the rarest animals on the planet. "Top dollar, hard-to-find things," Anson responded. "I've put myself in that position where people will offer me things first before they go elsewhere." He was in.

Morrison suggested they start out by smuggling bear bile, an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. Anson agreed that there was high demand for bear bile in China and South Korea, and he said he had a client willing to pay up to a hundred dollars an ounce for the liquid. "Please remember," he wrote Morrison, "I am not selling direct—too dangerous." Instead, he would use a middleman.

Morrison said he too had a partner, who could arrange for the bile from Canada, but she wouldn't work with Anson until she met him in person. Anson was reluctant. Because of the outstanding warrant on him, he couldn't enter U.S. territory, he told Morrison, and he was leery of Canada.

"We can meet anywhere here in Asia," Anson wrote. Argentina, South Africa, Peru, France, and England were all OK too. "No New Zealand," he stipulated, "or Australia."

They settled on Mexico.

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