special investigation Inside the dark corridors of the 'The Penguin's' secret underground cyber bunker
George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell preferred to keep his head above ground, opting to meet his business partner Hermann Xennt and his sons Xyonn and Orphelin in a breakfast bistro near the Traben Trarbach bridge.
If it was later in the day, they would meet in the group’s favourite restaurant in the town’s square.
There, he would polish off a bottle of red wine with his favourite dish of lamb or steak, followed by numerous gin and tonics. When it was time to go home he would be dropped off by his personal chauffeur, Xyonn, in dad Hermann’s distinctive white BMW X6 with the registration ‘Bo Bo’.
While Mitchell often enjoyed one too many, his pal Xennt merely matched him glass for glass with never ending rounds of hot chocolate, which the Irishman found disgusting.
The group undoubtedly looked unusual—the small, overweight pensioner who waddled when he walked and went by the name of Mr Green, Xennt with his long white hair and ankle-length leather coat looking all the world like a James Bond villain and the young Xyonn, with his rasta dreadlocks flowing down his back.
Locals got used to seeing them together, often with others from out of town or with various tech workers who came and went from their business high in the hills and hidden behind barbed wire fencing and security gates.
But George Mitchell and Herman Xennt were different in more ways than one. Despite investing hundreds of thousands of euro into a business venture at the underground bunker above the German valley, Mitchell hated being inside the concrete tomb built deep below the earth.
In fact, he found the former Nato military facility — built decades previously—so claustrophobic that he only visited once and left, witnesses say, ‘like a scalded cat’. Sources say Mitchell found the bunker ‘spooky and hospital-like’ and preferred to do his business in the real world.To Xennt, it was home, and he and his family lived there, hidden away under the earth, happy in their own secret world.
Mitchell, on the other hand, shared a riverside apartment in the town where his presence sparked a massive up-scaling of an investigation into the goings-on in the bunker in 2015, which was later discovered to be operating as a bullet-proof darknet hosting venue.
Ironically, it was Mitchell’s aversion to the bunker that made the massive police investigation, which has laid bare his vast criminal empire, easier.
At one point during the covert surveillance probe at the bunker—which saw 650 police storm the venue last year — applications for wire taps suggested that the property belonged to Mitchell and that he had forked out the €450k to buy it in 2012.
Instead, Sunday World sources say that Mitchell pumped that money into a business venture with Xennt which set up a secretive encrypted phone service for criminals across the world on the promise of anonymity and protection from the law.
But, they say, he never owned the bunker.
In an incredible tale about the notorious godfather of crime, known in Traben-Trarbach as ‘the mysterious Mr Green’, the Sunday World has revealed how Mitchell slipped the net of German police, who are now set to prosecute Xennt and others involved in the enterprise.
However, we have also revealed how an even bigger problem may await the 69-year-old Penguin should officers unravel the codes for his encrypted phone network, believed to be one of 450 criminal enterprises hosted in the bunker.
Despite assurances that there were numerous emergency exits which could only be opened inside, Mitchell hated the feeling of being trapped under the ground in the bunker and disliked the industrial feel of the interior which ran with millions of wires, plugs and fans to cool the huge servers operating there.It is understood that Mitchell disliked everything about the bunker, including how rain water had to be constantly pumped out from the sides where it got trapped, and how thick the metal doors were inside.
It was Mitchell’s hatred of the bunker which ultimately helped police keep a close eye on who he was meeting and when.
In total, they wire tapped 16 phones belonging to him alone.
Mitchell travelled in and out of Traben-Trarbach by car, boat and plane from all over Europe and beyond as he managed his vast business.
The typical Rhineland town lies within a valley surrounded by vineyards and is popular with hillwalkers.
Overlooked by MontRoyal, it is made up of a few small streets with local businesses and numerous coffee shops and restaurants.
It was an unlikely centre of global crime but, according to investigators, Mitchell and Xennt turned the old German town into the centre of darknet activities, including drug dealing, money laundering and secret communication streams.
The bunker, bought by Xennt in 2012 and registered as a ‘data centre’ stands over five floors—four of which are below ground and measuring an extraordinary 59,000 square feet. Above ground is a guarded gate and a helicopter pad fenced in over 32 acres.
Last September, 650 German police stormed the site and arrested Xennt and others working at the facility who would later be described as a crime ring—at one point suspected of being headed up by Mitchell.A forthcoming court case scheduled to be held in Trier in the coming months will focus on services made available to criminals from the bunker, including forgery, drug trafficking, fraud and theft. Prosecutors will try to convince a court that Xennt and Co knew what they were doing, while they will argue that they were mere landlords.
It is expected that descriptions of the bunker will form part of the case and will include details of how Mitchell’s associate lived there along with five Rottweilers, his wife, sons and other members of staff.
Xennt, unlike Mitchell, loved the bunker so much so that he chose to sleep in a bedroom underground rather than on the top floor.
The peculiar, self-confessed ‘King of the Darknet’ dressed his bed in black satin and placed life-sized superhero statues beside it.
He employed a handyman to mind the dogs and fix meals for the staff.
He used his sons as chauffeurs and accomplices and named them Xyonn and Yennoah because of his fondness for the letters ‘X’ and ‘Y’.
He regularly led a crew to Traben-Trarbach, Trier and, in particular, to ‘The Booty Club’ bar which was one of Mitchell’s favourite haunts.
Despite their differences, over two years Mitchell and Xennt were inseparable and were even together when the Sunday World tracked Mitchell down in 2015 — 20 years after he had last been photographed in the Irish media.But within two years of our undercover investigation, the relationship had turned sour and Mitchell and his Moroccan lover Khadiba Bouchiba were overheard on wire-tapped phones complaining that Xennt was dipping into their investment to fund the bunker, which ate into €17k of electricity alone every month.
Although their friendship cooled off, cops believe their business venture forged ahead and that ‘The Penguin’ financed phone apps bearing names like ‘Exclu’ and ‘Enigma’ which they suspect he sold to Colombian cartels as well as dangerous biker gangs.
George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell’s success and longevity in the criminal underworld can be largely put down to two things — his tight inner circle and his meanness with money.
Despite the enormous wealth that police believe he has accrued through a drug dealing empire that stretches across the UK, Europe and into Scandinavia — and in spite of the millions he has laundered through investments from Vietnam to Nigeria — officers say he is careful and obsessed with his cash to the extent that it comes between him and his sleep.
Mitchell longs to be the fictional Mr Green — the suave international businessman he uses as cover while trying to pawn himself off as a regular investor — but he has struggled to shake off the scars left by his impoverished upbringing in Ballyfermot, south Dublin.
He trusts few and he likes to keep his money in his pockets — for a rainy day.
In a way, Mitchell is a by-product of his Irish up-bringing in a large family struggling through the desperation of the 1950s and 1960s in Dublin. He can still taste the poverty of his childhood and it turns his stomach.
Today, secret files detail how he and his Spanish money man discuss investments in computer servers in Venezuela, waste water in Canada and gold in the United Arab Emirates, Laos, Dubai and Katra.
They chat about investments in platinum in Belgium, oil in Colombia and respiratory masks for health authorities in China and Indonesia.
Road machinery in Nigeria, blue-chip shares in the City of London and swimming pools in Asia are also discussed. And of course, there was the cyberbunker in Germany, where he sank almost €500,000 of his own personal pension fund into an encrypted communications network. That is the investment which could yet turn sour for the once untouchable Mitchell.