While the Republic believed it had suppressed criminal activity in the Core worlds, the unregulated Outer Rim provided a safe haven for criminal gangs to thrive, often at the expense of the galaxy’s poorest citizens. One of the most powerful was the Pyke Syndicate, an underworld organization that operated from the Pyke’s homeworld of Oba Dia.
The Pyke Syndicates illegal business ventures included everything from extortion to assassination, being responsible for the death of Jedi master Syfo Dyas a decade before the Clone Wars started. Their main source of income, however, was in the production and trafficking of Glitterstim Spice, a powerful drug.
While Spice could be used to make medical drugs, it was also used as an illegal narcotic that was popular across the galaxy, including in the rich worlds like Coruscant. The Pykes based their Spice production on the Outer Rim world of Kessel, a planet surrounded by a debris field known as the Akkadese Maelstrom, which made travel to and from it difficult and required skilled pilots to make the journey which became known as the Kessel Run.
At its height, the Pykes’ operations on Kessel used thousands of laborers, most of who were slaves, to work in the harsh, dangerous and unpleasant mines, as well as smugglers who were required to ship the Spice around the galaxy undetected by the authorities.
Like all the powerful syndicates, the Pykes had access to a large force of starships and guards to protect their operations, and often used them to dominate small and defenseless Outer Rim worlds, or destroy rival gangs that threatened their dominance of the Spice trade.
They never took kindly to betrayal and protected their reputation fiercely. A double-cross or lost Spice shipment could lead to a heavy bounty being placed on a smuggler, or sometimes even with the Pykes pursuing them personally to collect their debt. Their reach was galaxy-wide and there were few places to hide from their enforcers.
During the Clone Wars, when Darth Maul and his brother Savage Opress set up a criminal partnership with Pre Vizsla’s Death Watch, the Pykes were keen to join, with then leader Lom Pyke offering their services to the former Sith lord, hoping to end the costly rivalries with other syndicates. With the Hutts, Black Sun and Crimson Dawn joining, the partnership would call itself the Shadow Collective, and ran most of the organized crime in the galaxy. They began a series of attacks on Mandalore that overwhelmed the authorities and led to Vizsla taking power on the planet. Maul would rule from the shadows, directing the syndicate’s operations and threatening its leaders when they failed to deliver.
Following the collapse of Maul’s criminal empire, the Pykes returned to running their own affairs. They had a reasonably stable relationship with the newly formed Galactic Empire, continuing to operate Spice mines on Kessel even after Imperial forces had established their own operations, and managed to maintain their monopoly of the spice trade. With the death of Jabba the Hutt, the Pykes moved in on Tatooine, setting up Spice running operations on the planet until challenged by the bounty hunter Boba Fett.
While their dominance would fade after the Empire’s collapse, the Pykes never disappeared completely from the criminal underworld, continuing to operate in the Spice cartels, and working to rebuild their former power base.