This article is authored by Akash Krishnan, a law student from ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad. It discusses in detail the life and criminal activities of the top 10 criminals in the world. 

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.


Globally, the term ‘crime’ has taken different shades, which makes us think of the word in different aspects. It has a strong connotation and has grown in level through centuries and continues to rise in leaps and bounds. It has its own driving force like strong emotions of fear, hatred, and vengeance, to name a few. In common parlance, the word ‘crime’ is defined as an act that is punishable by law, which is usually considered an evil act. 

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Now that we have understood the meaning of crime, let us look into some of the infamous criminals that have committed heinous crimes over the years and whether the hands of the law could reach them. 

Top 10 criminals in the world 

Doku Khamatovich Umarov a.k.a Dokka Abu Usman

Birth and rise

Born on April 13, 1964, Doku Umarov identified himself as a separatist leader of Checheno-Ingushetia, U.S.S.R., currently known as Chechnya, Russia. Also, he was the self-proclaimed military leader of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, which included areas of multiple Islamic territories in and around Chechnya, Russia.

In 1994, during the war between the Chechen secessionists and Russia, he joined the Chechen secessionists. He soon rose through the ranks, and by the end of the war in 1996, he was appointed as Brigadier General of the Chechen armed forces. In 1997, he was appointed as the head of the Security Council of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya. However, after being accused of multiple kidnappings and abuse of position, he was removed from the post, following which he participated in another war that broke out between Russia and the Chechen Republic. He was a highly decorated soldier, and on the death of the then President of the Republic, he was first appointed as the Vice President of the Republic government in 2005. He was then appointed as the President in 2006.

Criminal offences

Abusing his position as the President of the Republic, he called for the creation of an Islamic Caucasus Emirate and the imposition of Shariah law in the Emirate. Further, he was involved in provoking people to fight in the holy war of jihad.

In 2009, he called in a battalion of suicide bombers and declared Russia as his target. These bombers were responsible for killing more than 24 people on board a train from Moscow. In 2010, he released a video claiming culpability for multiple attacks on Russian soil and threatened that there were more to come. In 2011, he released yet another video claiming responsibility for a suicide bomber attack on the Moscow airport that led to the deaths of over 30 people. In 2012, he sought support from his followers to disrupt the 2014 Winter Olympic Games that were to be held in Russia. However, no attacks occurred during the event. It was also alleged that during his term as the head of the Security Council, he led a school siege in Beslan, Russia, which led to the deaths of over 300 people.

Due to his widespread acts of terror, he was added to the United Nations Security Council list of individuals associated with the broad-based al-Qaeda network of Islamic militants. He was also declared to be a wanted terrorist by the U.S. State Department.

Current Scenario

In 2014, a website linked to the Islamic insurgency in Russia declared that Doku had died and a new President was appointed as his successor. It was later alleged that he was poisoned in August 2013. However, Russia has claimed on multiple occasions that its secret forces were responsible for his assassination.

Joseph Kony

Birth and rise

Born in 1961, Joseph Kony was the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a military group that was responsible for multiple terrorist activities across Northern Uganda. He self-proclaimed himself to be a prophet for the Alcholi people and thereafter led a Holy Spirit movement against the Ugandan government. Although the movement failed in 1988, it led to the formation of the LRA, a military group based on the ideas of religion and traditional beliefs. Its aim was to establish a government based on the principles of the 10 commandments of the bible.   

Criminal Offences

Acting as a prophet, he misled the LRA into believing that his orders were actually passed on to him by spirits. Under his leadership, the LRA attacked hundreds of villages and committed multiple offences like murder, rape, mutilation, etc., which resulted in over 2 million people fleeing their homes. They kidnapped and brainwashed young children, recruited them as soldiers, or kept them as slaves. Kony himself was alleged to have married over 50 female captives.  

In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest on the grounds of human rights violations and commission of war crimes that included over 10,000 murders and the abduction and enslavement of over 24,000 children. However, he made a peace offering in 2006, and after a series of negotiations, a peace agreement was reached in 2008. However, he refused to sign it before the suspension of warrants issued against him and other LRA members by the ICC.

Kony and the LRA left Uganda in 2006 and moved to Congo and Sudan, which became their new terror targets. Joint military action was undertaken against him by the forces of Uganda, Congo, and Sudan. However, this action failed and the atrocities of the LRA in Congo, Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR) increased. They were responsible for hundreds of kidnappings and murders in the CAR region in 2016 and 2017.  

Current scenario

Currently, Kony and the LRA are still at large and are operating from the CAR region. However, their activities are being curtailed to a large extent because of the presence of US and Ugandan military forces that have been deployed to ensure the safety of people in these regions.

Felicien Kabuga

Birth and rise

Born on 1st March 1933, Felicien was one of the richest men in Rwanda prior to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He was the husband of the President of the National Revolutionary Movement for Development, whose death was one of the main reasons that sparked the Rwandan genocide.

Criminal offences

Felicien was the chairman and co-founder of an institution called the Fonds de Défense Nationale (FDN). It was through this institution that he financed the interim Rwandan government and military groups to commit the Rwandan genocide. He also provided them with logistic support by supplying them with weapons, uniforms, transport vehicles, etc. The US Department of State had declared a 5 million dollar reward for any information that would have led to the arrest, transfer, or conviction of Felicien. Post the genocide of 1994, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted him on 7 counts, including crimes against humanity and genocide.

Current Scenario

In May 2020, Felicien was finally arrested in Paris, France. During the trial in the French Court, he refuted the charges and argued against extradition to the United Nations Tribunal in Tanzania on the grounds of COVID-19 and other health reasons. In September 2020, France’s top appeal court ordered the extradition of Felicien and for him to face trial at the UN Tribunal in Tanzania. On June 13, 2022, the UN Tribunal ruled that Felicien is fit to stand trial and that the trial should commence at the earliest.  

Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov

Birth and rise

Born on 1st January 1949, in Uzbekistan, Alimzhan is a Russian businessman who was arrested multiple times for several offences. His criminal profile started to build in his early 30s, when he was arrested twice for parasitism (a crime under the laws of the Soviet Union wherein the individual was accused of living at the expense of the people in society). In 1989, he gained Israeli citizenship and was involved in international arms sales. In 2002, he was accused of bribing the 2002 Winter Olympic ice-skating judges. He was arrested and then extradited back to Russia.

Criminal offences

In 2013, the US Southern District Court in New York indicted him on account of his involvement with the Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization. This organisation was responsible for laundering billions of dollars from illegal international gambling operations running out of Russia and Ukraine. Further, he is alleged to be one of the leaders of the organisation who was part of the group ‘thieves-in-law’. The primary purpose of this group was to offer protection to criminals across the globe in exchange for money and to resolve disputes between criminals by resorting to threats of physical and economic harm.  

The U.S. Department of State has declared a reward of 4 million dollars for any information that may lead to his arrest or conviction.

Current scenario

Currently, Alimzhan is still at large and is believed to be living a free life in Russia.

Nasir al-Wuhayshi

Birth and rise

Born 1st October 1976, in Yemen, he was part of multiple religious institutions in Yemen before joining Al-Qaeda in 1988. During his time at Al-Qaeda, he served as a secretary to the then-Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. He rose to power and became the leader of the Yemeni operations of Al-Qaeda in 2002. Later, in 2009, the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi Arabia operations of Al-Qaeda resulted in the formation of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and he was appointed as its leader.

Criminal Offences

Under the leadership of Wuhayshi, AQAP has committed multiple terrorist activities across the globe. Its rise began with the 2003 Riyadh bombings, and it gained significant attention after the 2008 attack on the US embassy in Sanaa. In 2009, the AQAP claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a US passenger jet. In 2015, it claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in the offices of a weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, which led to the deaths of 12 people and injured over 11 people. The AQAP was also accused of attempting to sneak bombs through US cargo planes in 2010.

Current scenario

On June 12, 2015, Wuhyashi was killed in a drone strike in Yemen carried out by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). However, this does not mark an end to the AQAP as a new leader was announced soon after the death of Wuhyashi.

Matteo Messina Denaro

Birth and rise

Born on 26 April 1962, in Sicily, the path towards the mafia commission of Trapani was pre-set for Denaro as the same was headed by his father. He is alleged to have committed his first murder at the age of 18 and had made a reputation for himself by murdering the rival mafia boss. The death of his father paved the way for the mafia to come under his command. After the arrest of another mafia leader in the Trapani province, he combined the forces and became the leader of the single largest mafia group in the Trapani province.

Criminal offences

He was involved in multiple crimes, starting from extorting money from businessmen in the name of protection and taking over public construction contracts. He was also part of drug trafficking cartels that were spread across Germany and Belgium. In 1993, he was responsible for the bombing of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, which killed 6 people and wounded over 26 others. He was also the mastermind behind multiple terrorist bombings throughout Italy that led to the deaths of 10 people and injured over 93 others. In total, he is wanted for over 50 murders.

Current scenario

After the 1993 bombings, Denaro went into hiding and is still at large. He is still one of Europe’s most wanted fugitives and has been convicted for life imprisonment on the grounds of murder, grievous bodily injury and participation in criminal organisations. 

James Whitey Bulger

Birth and rise

Whitey Bulger aka James Joseph Bulger, Jr. born on 3rd September 1929, Massachusetts, was one of the most feared American crime lords from 1960-1990. At a young age itself, he was arrested multiple times for the offences of forgery, assault, and battery. He mainly operated out of Boston and was the leader of the Winter Hill Gang.

Criminal offences

He was convicted of a 20 years sentence in 1956 on account of multiple bank robberies. However, he was out on parole in 1965, and thereafter he joined the Winter Hill Gang as an enforcer. He later became an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, instead of him providing information to the FBI, he started controlling FBI agents and used them to his own advantage. He soon took over the gang and began extorting money from businessmen, drug dealers, and other criminals. Due to his connection to the FBI, his name never came up. During this time, he committed 19 murders. After his FBI connection was exposed, he fled Boston and started living under a false identity.

Current Scenario

In June 2011, he was arrested by the FBI and charged with 19 murders. Post-trial, he was found guilty of participating in 11 murders and was given two consecutive life sentences plus 5 years as punishment.  In 2018, he was transferred to U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton in northern West Virginia, where he was killed by the prison inmates.

Rafael Caro Quintero

Birth and rise

Born on 24th October 1952, in Sinaloa, he left his hometown at the age of 20 and got involved in drug trafficking operations in Chihuahua. Initially, he grew marijuana on a small scale and then accumulated enough money to begin large-scale production of the same before becoming the leader of drug trafficking in Mexico.

Criminal activities

He was primarily involved in the activity of drug trafficking into the US and Mexico borders in large quantities. He combined multiple cartels to form one giant drug trafficking cartel in Mexico and became the leader of the same. He kidnapped a US Drug Enforcement Agent because of his involvement in the raid and seizure of his marijuana, resulting in a 160-million-dollar loss. He also murdered 3 other people.

Current scenario

Following the murders, he was arrested in 1985 and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, he came out of prison in 2013 on the grounds of an improper trial. Although another warrant was issued by a Mexican court soon after, he fled the scene and is at large to date and has a 20 million dollar reward for any information that could lead to his arrest or conviction.   

Omid Tahvili

Birth and rise

Born 31st October 1970, in Iran, Omid arrived in Canada in 1994, wherein he was involved in drug peddling and trafficking and was arrested for the same before his coming of age as the leader of an Iranian organized crime family operating out of Canada.

Criminal offences

He is mainly accused of running a fraudulent telemarketing business in the USA through which he defrauded hundreds of victims for a sum of over 3 million dollars over a period of 3 years, i.e., from 1999-2002. In 2003, the District Court of South California charged him with mail fraud, wire fraud, telemarketing fraud, and aiding and abetting.

Current scenario

In 2005, Omid was arrested by the FBI. However, before his trial could begin, he escaped from the prison by bribing the security guard. The guard was arrested and convicted later. However, Omid is still at large and remains an international fugitive. 

Pedro Antonio Marin

Birth and rise

Born on 13th May 1930, in Colombia, following the massacre of his town and family, Marin joined a guerrilla self-defence group at the age of 20. He then received military training from communist trainers and formed the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in 1964, along with 48 other fighters.

Criminal activities

He established FARC with the aim of usurping the then Colombian government. Soo, the organisation, saw support from the local rural villages and towns and grew in size with over 12,000 fighters and thousands of supporters. It primarily indulged in raising attacks against the Colombian military and government. Also, it was involved in drug trafficking, extortion, murders, and other terrorist activities. Marin was single-handedly responsible for the production and distribution of drugs in the US, taxation of the drug trade in Colombia and killing anyone who opposed his policies.

Current Scenario

In 2008, Marin died due to natural causes. 

Mysterious unidentified criminals

The above list comprises criminals who have been identified by investigation departments across the world. However, there were some criminals who shocked the conscience of the entire world but still remain unidentified. Let us look into some of these criminals. 

The Zodiac killer

Any person in the world can become a criminal, but only a few have the ability to be an artist. The Zodiac killer could be described as a true artist of crime who liked to play with the minds of the authorities and the public, who left many encrypted messages that revealed his identity and yet walked free.

The first murder on the list was of a couple who were shot late at midnight by an unknown person. Six months later, another couple was attacked in a similar manner, though the man survived even after being shot thrice. Soon after, the Police Department received a phone call from an unknown person, who claimed responsibility for both these incidents, but all attempts to trace back the call to the person were in vain. Six months later, the first communication was made by the killer to three news agencies via nearly identical letters in which he took credit for the previous murders. He also claimed that the encrypted code in the letter would reveal his identity. A week later, he sent another letter revealing all the details of the murder, information that was not available in the public domain. Two months down, a series of letters were received by the news agencies, which included pieces of evidence related to the killings of the Zodiac Killer and cryptographic codes, which remained unsolved to date. 

The communications resumed a year later when the Zodiac Killer took credit for the bombing of a police station in San Francisco. He further gave a 13-letter code revealing his name, which was never solved. Further, in a series of letters, he took credit for several murders that were unaccounted for and started maintaining a score with the Police Department, which ended at 37-0 in his last letter in the year 1974. Fact or fable is something that is left for you and me to decide, as there was no evidence linking him to all those crimes. The police department investigated over 2500 suspects during these years. 

The last communication of the Department in the year 2018 stated that they were very close to finding out the identity, but no one has been accounted for the same to date, which leaves us with the question: Who was the Zodiac Killer?

The Black Dahlia case

Another most shocking murder which took place is of Elizabeth Short, nicknamed Black Dahlia in Los Angeles, California in 1947. The point of a mystery is that the killer was never found.

By the mid-1940s, Black Dahlia was working as a waitress and was struggling to fulfil her dream of becoming a Hollywood actress. However, she never met her dream. In the year 1947, at the age of 22, a horrifying incident took place. Her body was found dead in a miserable condition; her waist was separated from her body and one of her breasts was chopped. She was found nude by a local stranger near the streets of Los Angeles. In addition to her chopped body, the killer had drained her blood and made it clean. The case quickly became the headline and remained front-page news for almost two months in local newspapers. The investigation department could not find much on the case, and the sole witness of the incident stated that a black sedan was parked in that area, but that didn’t help the police much.

In the year 2013, the case again gained momentum and returned to the cover page. Recently, an investigation was conducted by police sergeant Paul Dostie and a police dog named Buster, with high power to smell. The investigating team found strong evidence against Hodel’s father, Dr George Hill Hodel, an old suspect of the team. An extensive search was conducted at his place, and Buster detected a strong smell of blood in several areas of the basement. The soil samples were taken for further lab testing. His son provided evidence of a conversation between his father and a stranger wherein his father remarked “even though I killed Black Dahlia no one can prove. They can’t talk to my secretary as she is dead now. ”

Whether Hill Hodel was the murderer or if it was just another loose trail, this question still remains a mystery.

Jack the Ripper

Another line of bodies was left by the infamous Jack the Ripper. He is considered to be one of the most notorious serial killers in London. He brought in a reign of terror and remains one of England’s and the world’s most merciless killers.

Jack the Ripper had a unique signature style of committing murders and also possessed impeccable skill with a knife. In 1888, he killed at least five women in an unusual manner by mutilating their bodies. He prowled over the East End for about a century and also preyed on prostitutes. The city of London was dreaded as it woke up to find dead bodies piling up near each other within a period of three months. The local newspapers reported the brutality of the killings and described them as barbarous and horrible. His killings were called the Whitechapel Murders. These victims all had their throats slashed, and most of them also had their stomachs slit and organs ripped out before being dumped on the streets. A study by the FBI at the behest of a movie production company revealed that most of his victims were heavy drinkers and prostitutes. They believed that these victims were easy targets. 

Now the question is, were the killings random in nature, or was the killer seeking retribution?

The different and numinous patterns of murder left the local authorities confused about the identity of the murderer. A series of letters have acted as evidence, but it has been futile. Jack the Ripper has been the most controversial figure for the last 120 years. Several patterns of murder could also mean there was more than one killer. So, was it Jack the Ripper or was it a group of Rippers under the same name?

Thus, it can be stated that history has witnessed many astonishing murder mysteries. The murders so committed were brutal and almost unimaginable in their depravity. These crimes especially serial killings had an ever-lasting impact and also raised certain questions that lingered on for centuries. 


The above list can be termed as nothing but the tip of the mountain. There are several criminals who have committed or are committing heinous crimes and are escaping the clutches of the law. With the advent of technology and the new-age law enforcement mechanisms, one could only wonder how such crimes continue to happen in society. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

  1. How do these criminals escape the law enforcement agencies?

Even in an era driven by technological advancements, investigation agencies have not been able to catch these criminals because of two major reasons. Firstly, these criminals are either backed by the government itself or are backed by the community at large, which enables them to hide in plain sight; and secondly, the investigation agencies lack international jurisdiction to enter and arrest these criminals on foreign soil. 

  1. Who determines the top 10 criminal list?

Different criminal investigation agencies like the FBI, Interpol, US State Department, etc., keep releasing lists of individuals who are the top fugitives in their jurisdictions. Apart from these, Google also prepares a list based on the information available on the internet. 

  1. Why was the name of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi included in its list of the top 10 criminals in the world?

Based on reports and articles on Google that linked the Prime Minister to the Gujarat riots and the burning of the Samjhota Express that led to the deaths of several Muslims, Google accidentally named him on its top 10 criminal list. However, his name was removed from the list soon after its publication and Google made an open apology to him for the same.


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