Carlos Lehder Rivas, considered by officials to be one of the most important world leaders of drug trafficking.

Carlos Lehder’s Role In Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel

Pablo Escobar is widely known for being the world’s richest drug lord of all time, and having so much influence that he shook the foundations of Colombian society. As the head of the Medellin cartel, Pablo Escobar was able to rake in billions of dollars in proceeds each year from the drug trafficking business.

At the peak of his drug trafficking endeavors, Escobar was said to have had so much money that it had to be kept in warehouses and false walls. According to his accountant, Roberto Escobar, Pablo Escobar was in his prime making about $420 million a week, as reported by Business Insider.

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So how did the Medellin cartel become so successful? Carlos Lehder, one of the key members of the cartel, made a great contribution to this. Born of a German father and a Colombian mother, he was an outstanding strategist, and was instrumental in streamlining the Medellin cartel’s operations. The following is what Juan David Ochoa, one of the brothers in the Medellin cartel, revealed about Carlos Lehder and his role, while on an interview with PBS.

“Carlos Lehder was a boy from high society. And he was important because he was one of the pioneers that started the traffic with this. He had his own planes and very sophisticated ways of trafficking. What made cocaine trafficking very easy was an island that he [Carlos Lehder] bought in the Bahamas. That was called Norman’s Cay.

“That island was a sort of bridge for the planes for the trafficking of drugs. Because of that, Carlos was well known. It made things easy, because it was a territory where the planes arrived freely. They would leave the cocaine, and then some much smaller other planes would take the much shorter flight to Florida.”

On how Carlos Lehder was able to operate a drug trafficking transit point without being arrested, he and the Medellin cartel apparently put the Bahamian government on retainer to allow them to continue with their operations. The Bahamian government apparently promised the Medellin cartel that they would get a heads up if things “got too hot,” allowing them to escape.

“That was the foundation of, it’s going to be okay. We can be wild, we can be loud and we can be seen. We are not going to be touched because whatever happens, if the DEA is coming towards us, they are going to find an empty island and that’s how it happened. They did,” summarized Carlos Toro, one of the pilots who smuggled drugs for the Medellin cartel, during an interview with PBS.

However, one incident put Carlos Lehder and the Bahamian government at loggerheads. It involved the arrest of Carlos Lehder’s colleagues, but they were not immediately released. Apparently, there had been an agreement that, from time to time, a few arrests would be made in order to make the government look good and soon after, the suspects would be released.

This time, however, things didn’t go as expected, and the government took steps to indict them, something which infuriated Carlos. He became so mad that he loaded one of his planes with paper money and flew all over Nassau throwing down the cash to mock the Bahamian government. This put him in their bad books.

In the end, when members of the Medellin cartel were being sought after by the Colombian government for extradition to the United States, Carlos Lehder, Pablo Escobar, and the rest of the gang had to go into hiding. Carlos first went to Chile and then to Nicaragua. Carlos Lehder’s assets were apparently frozen by the Bahamian government, leaving him almost bankrupt.

He allegedly got very sick, prompting Pablo Escobar to fly him to Colombia, where he was able to get treatment. He was eventually hired as Pablo Escobar’s bodyguard. Carlos Lehder was captured in the mid-’80s and extradited to the United States in 1987, and is still serving time.

[Featured Image by AP Images]