Thursday, January 8, 2015
Pablo Escobar Cocaine Trafficker Richest in History
Pablo Escobar was born in Rionegro, Colombia, the third of nine children to Abel de Jesús Dari Escobar, a farmer, and Hermilda Gaviria, an elementary school teacher. As a teenager on the streets of Medellín, he began his criminal career by allegedly stealing gravestones and sanding them down for resale to smugglers. His brother, Roberto Escobar, denies this, claiming that the gravestones came from cemetery owners whose clients had stopped paying for site care and that they had a relative who had a monuments business.He studied for a short time at the University of Antioquia.
Escobar was involved in many criminal activities with Oscar Bernal Aguirre—running petty street scams, selling contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets, and stealing cars. In the early 1970s, he was a thief and bodyguard, and he made a quick $100,000 on the side kidnapping and ransoming a Medellín executive before entering the drug trade.His next step on the ladder was to become a millionaire by working for contraband smuggler Alvaro Prieto. Escobar's childhood ambition was to become a millionaire by the time he was 22.
In The Accountant's Story, Pablo's brother and accountant, Roberto Escobar, discusses the means by which Pablo rose from middle class simplicity and obscurity to become one of the world's wealthiest men. At the height of its power, the Medellín drug cartel was smuggling fifteen tons of cocaine per day, worth more than half a billion dollars, into the United States. According to Roberto, he and his brother's operation spent $1000 a week purchasing rubber bands to wrap the stacks of cash, storing most of it in their warehouses; 10% had to be written off a year due to "spoilage" by rats that crept in at night and nibbled on the hundred dollar bills.
In 1975, Escobar started developing his cocaine operation. He even flew a plane himself several times, mainly between Colombia and Panama, to smuggle a load into the United States. When he later bought fifteen new and bigger airplanes (including a Learjet) and six helicopters, he decommissioned the plane and hung it above the gate to his ranch at Hacienda Napoles. His reputation grew after a well known Medellín dealer named Fabio Restrepo was murdered in 1975 ostensibly by Escobar, from whom he had purchased fourteen kilograms. Afterwards, all of Restrepo's men were informed that they were working for Pablo Escobar. In May 1976, Escobar and several of his men were arrested and found in possession of 39 pounds (18 kg) of white paste after returning to Medellín with a heavy load from Ecuador. Initially, Pablo tried unsuccessfully to bribe the Medellín judges who were forming the case against him. Instead, after many months of legal wrangling, Pablo had the two arresting officers bribed and the case was dropped. It was here that he began his pattern of dealing with the authorities by either bribing them or killing them. Roberto Escobar maintains Pablo fell into the business simply because contraband became too dangerous to traffic. There were no drug cartels then and only a few drug barons, so there was plenty of business for everyone. In Peru, they bought the cocaine paste, which they refined in a laboratory in a two-story house in Medellín. On his first trip, Pablo bought a paltry £30 worth of paste in what was to become the first step towards the building of his empire. At first, he smuggled the cocaine in old plane tires and a pilot could earn as much as £500,000 a flight depending on how much he could smuggle.
Soon, the demand for cocaine was skyrocketing in the United States and Pablo organized more smuggling shipments, routes, and distribution networks in South Florida, California and other parts of the USA. He and Carlos Lehder worked together to develop a new island trans-shipment point in the Bahamas, called Norman's Cay. Carlos and Robert Vesco purchased most of the land on the Island which included a 3,300 foot airstrip, a harbor, hotel, houses, boats, aircraft and even built a refrigerated warehouse to store the cocaine. From 1978–1982, this was used as a central smuggling route for the Medellín Cartel. (According to his brother's account, Pablo did not purchase Norman's Cay. It was, instead, a sole venture of Carlos Lehder.) Escobar was able to purchase the 7.7 square miles (20 km2) of land, which included Hacienda Napoles, for several million dollars. He created a zoo, a lake and other diversions for his family and organization. At one point it was estimated that seventy to eighty tons of cocaine were being shipped from Colombia to the U.S. every month. At the peak of his power in the mid-1980s, he was shipping as much as eleven tons per flight in jetliners to the United States (the biggest load shipped by Pablo was 23,000 kg mixed with fish paste and shipped via boat, as confirmed by his brother in the book Escobar). In addition to using the planes, Pablo's brother, Roberto Escobar, said he also used two small remote-controlled submarines as a way to transport the massive loads (these subs were, in fact, manned and this is again documented in Roberto's book).
In 1982 Escobar was elected as an alternate member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia as part of the Colombian Liberal Party. He was the official representative of the Colombian government in the swearing in of Felipe González in Spain.
Soon Escobar became known internationally as his drug network gained notoriety; the Medellín Cartel controlled a large portion of the drugs that entered into the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Spain with cocaine produced with coca from Peru and Bolivia through other drug dealers such as Roberto Suárez Gómez, since Colombian coca was initially of substandard quality and demand for more and better cocaine increased. Escobar's cocaine reached many other countries in America and Europe through Spain; it was even rumoured that his network reached as far as Asia.
Height of power
During the height of its operations, the cartel brought in more than $60 million per day. Pablo Escobar said that the essence of the cocaine business was "Simple—you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back."In 1989, Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be one of 227 billionaires in the world with a personal net worth of close to US$3 billion while his Medellín cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market.
It is commonly believed that Escobar was the principal financier behind Medellín's Atlético Nacional who won South America's most prestigious football tournament, the Copa Libertadores in 1989.
While seen as an enemy of the United States and Colombian governments, Escobar was a hero to many in Medellín (especially the poor people); he was a natural at public relations and he worked to create goodwill among the poor people of Colombia. A lifelong sports fan, he was credited with building football fields and multi-sports courts, as well as sponsoring children's football teams.
Escobar was responsible for the construction of many hospitals, schools and churches in western Colombia, which gained him popularity inside the local Roman Catholic Church.He worked hard to cultivate his Robin Hood image, and frequently distributed money to the poor through housing projects and other civic activities, which gained him notable popularity among the poor. The population of Medellín often helped Escobar serving as lookouts, hiding information from the authorities, or doing whatever else they could to protect him.
Many of the wealthier residents of Medellín also viewed him as a threat. At the height of his power, drug traffickers from Medellín and other areas were handing over between 20% and 35% of their Colombian cocaine-related profits to Escobar, because he was the one who shipped the cocaine successfully to the US.
The Colombian cartels' continuing struggles to maintain supremacy resulted in Colombia quickly becoming the world’s murder capital with 25,100 violent deaths in 1991 and 27,100 in 1992. This increased murder rate was fueled by Escobar's giving money to his hitmen as a reward for killing police officers, over 600 of whom died in this way.