meaning of this expression, "Jim's motives were always Byzantine"


Nov 4, 2008
Melbourne AU
I'm reading a novel called Recollections of a racketeer written by Patrick Lane an British author who was once a successful business accountant who also made big money as a hash smuggler during the 1970s/1980s by working as a middle man between hash/weed producers in countries like Afghanistan/Pakistan/Nepal/Thailand/Colombia and distributors in London and California.

Being an accountant meant this British guy was also an expert at money laundering as well as handling large amounts cash by opening different bank accounts around London at international merchant banks to deposit cold hard cash often kept in two large suitcases that can hold 250 K of British Pounds in each bag. Typically the earnings from a successful shipment of hash that has made it all the way from central Asia where cannabis resin is dirt cheap to purchase to be smuggled by air or sea transport into the UK and then sold in London to wholesale distributors in a city where hippy stoners pay big money for quality hash

Patrick Lane is famous for being an important member of Howard Mark's international dope syndicate known to be behind some of the 70s and 80s biggest shipments of cannabis resin from the central-south Asia region into England via Germany and the Republic of Ireland. As well as smuggling weed into the west coast of America.

What do you guys think the meaning of this expression, "Jim's motives were always Byzantine" is?

What is meant by describing a fellow key member of an criminal enterprise in such a way

I Read this expression in a autobiography called Recollections of a racketeer where in one chapter the situation is the author Patrick Lane said fellow hash smuggler Jim McCann who had connections to the IRA could help track down a cop killer murderer from the IRA who was a prominent and a high profile member of the IRA responsible for killing the author's grandfather who was a Catholic policeman in Belfast and in Jim McCann's words "Patrick i could put a gun in your hand and place you in the same Dublin pub at t where your father's murderer drinks his Guinness"

Patrick thought about the proposal and even took up an offer from Jim McCann to train the author on how to shot an military handgun to assassinate a person at close range. Patrick under Jim McCann's guidance practised shooting targets out in the middle of nowhere on an rural British farm and Patrick actually became a pretty good shot but Patrick decided he wasn't cut out to be a cold blooded killer and Patrick really didn't know how trustworthy Jim was so he never asked Jim for the intel on his father's murderer's local Dublin pub. You really need to read both Howard Mark's and Patrick Lane's autobiographies to get the full picture on how shifty and dodgy Jim McCann was. To be honest he was utterly hilarious.

Drugs trafficker Howard Marks was involved with McCann for several years in smuggling hashish from Afghanistan through Irish ports, specifically Shannon Airport, to the UK via Milford Haven in Wales

Jim was an clever at using the notoriety of being known as a major arms smuggler supplying firearms to the IRA in Northern Ireland as a cover to enlist members of Shannon Airport Customs to help get air freight shipments thru Republic of Ireland custom controls at Shannon without raising suspicions about the air freight shipments point of origin and true contents. This was before drug detection sniffer dogs were standard at international airports so to avoid a large load of Afghani cannabis resin hidden in tins of vegetables being more closely scrutinised was easy back in the 1970s. All that was necessary was to have the proper paper work and a friendly Irish customs clerk working on the day the load arrived. The clerk knew the false name the shipping documents were in and the whole load of hash was waved thru.

In all the years Howard Marks and Jim McCann used Shannon to receive loads of hash not once did anyone get busted at the airport. What undid the Shannon plan was couriers were busted driving car loads of hash by ferry from Ireland to the UK. As well as Irish police intercepting a truck carrying large amounts of hash as well as of all things a big load of Bananas.,4683134&dq=

I have heard of the Byzantine Empire but for the life of me I have no idea to the meaning behind this expression. I'm guessing by the author saying Jim's motives were always Byzantine it was a smart way of saying Jim McCann wasn't to be trusted and Jim could manipulate any situation to appear supportive to Patrick but then just as easily turn around and double cross Patrick. IIRC Byzantine's were ethnically Greeks and what's the famous saying " be wary of Greeks bearing gifts"

I won't go into to much detail about Howard Mark's international dope syndicate( I highly recommend you track down Howard Mark's novel Mr Nice and Patrick Lane's Recollection of a racketeer novel for the first hand account of the rise and fall of an international dope smuggling syndicate. Both autobiographies are fantastic reads and both authors have an interesting full story to tell ) but as you would imagine what made Patrick Lane so much more important in this particular Marijuana import business was his on the job accountancy training and his real life corporate workplace experience.
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Moderator: CEPS, Words
Staff member
Nov 12, 2016
A chromatically corrected world
I'm guessing the secondary meaning of "Byzantine" is in play here. It means "complicated" and has the connotation of being devious.

Usually the lower case "byzantine" is as an adjective, in this case.

The fact that Jim used his reputation as a heavy arms smuggler to move drugs is already complicated enough. :)

Definition #5 is "complex or intricate"

I hope this is helpful.

The book sounds interesting.


Sr. Moderator: H&R, Words
Staff member
Nov 3, 2008
I'm utterly amazed at cdug's reading prowess; I have not heard this one. I am a mostly uncultured buffoon by human standards.


Bluelight Crew
Aug 30, 2010
By saying, "Jim's motives were always Byzantine", I would have assumed he was alluding to trade, import/export and wheeling an' dealing, i.e. Byzantium in relation to Istanbul; the Silk Road etc. etc.?


Feb 2, 2010
Byzantine means very complicated, just like being a skilled accountant and successful international drug smuggler and money launderer would be, I imagine.