Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, born on December 1st, 1949 to a lower middle-class family was a powerful Colombian drug lord and leader of one of the powerful criminal organizations. At his zenith in the 80s, he ran and controlled a vast empire of drugs that covered the globe. He is responsible for hundreds of murders and presided over an empire of luxury mansions, planes, his own private zoo and a personal army comprising of soldiers and hardened criminals. Here are 15 facts about Pablo Escobar – a man who continues to fascinate us even after his death.
1. He started off as a criminal on the streets of Medellin in his teens smuggling cars, tombstones, cigarettes and even kidnapped people for ransom.
Pablo Escobar began his career in crime as a teenager on the streets of Medellin. He started off by stealing and sandpapering the tombstones to sell them to smugglers in Panama. He progressed to selling contraband cigarettes, fake lottery tickets and running small scams. In the early 1970s, he became a thief and a bodyguard eventually kidnapping a Medellin executive for ransom. The next stop was drug trade in which he became the numero uno smuggler of all times. (source)
2. At one point of time, Escobar was earning 420 million USD a week, which amounted to 22 billion a year.
At his zenith, Pablo would earn about 420 million USD a week. While hiding the cash did not prove a problem, organizing the bank notes did. The Escobar brothers resorted to purchasing 2,500 USD worth of rubber bands a month to neatly wrap the currency bills and store them in their hideouts.(source)
3. Pablo Escobar, who was one of the 10 richest men in the world at his prime had an estimated net worth of 30 billion USD by the early 1990s.
Pablo Escobar most often called as the ‘Cocaine King’ was one of the wealthiest criminals in history. In 1987, the Forbes estimated that his personal wealth was at least 3 billion USD. Escobar continued to make his place in the Forbes list of billionaires for seven successful years (1987-1993). He was declared as the seventh-richest man in the world in 1989. His last appearance was on the year he died. His net worth was estimated to be 1 billion USD at the time of his death. (source 1,2)
4. Escobar purchased an island, Norman’s Cay, in the Bahamas which he used as the central smuggling route for Medellin Cartel.
In the late 70s Carlos Lehder, a member of Medellin cartel purchased Norman’s Cay, an island in the Bahamas. A 1,000m airstrip, houses, harbor, hotel, aircraft and boats were part of this purchase. Escobar even built a refrigerated warehouse to store his cocaine. The Cay remained a smuggling route for four years (1978 -1982).(source)
5. Initially, he smuggled cocaine in old plane tyres. A pilot could earn as much as £500,000 per flight.
According to Pablo Escobar’s brother, Escobar switched to Cocaine smuggling when smuggling contraband cigarettes became dangerous to traffic. Initially, he smuggled the Cocaine in old plane tyres and a pilot was paid as much as £500,000 per flight depending on how many kilos he brought in. A single flight in a week could yield an astonishing profit of about £1 million. Soon the flights tripled. He also employed two small remote-controlled submarines to transfer his Cocaine.(source 1,2)
6. During the 80s, 80% of the world’s cocaine was supplied by Escobar’s cartel and smuggled 15 tons of cocaine into the US per day.
During the heights of its operations in the 80s, Escobar’s cartel smuggled 15 tons of Cocaine into U.S. every day earning more than half a billion from this daily operation. The cartel soon gained global control over the drug smuggling. In fact, a whopping 80% of the Cocaine market was controlled by the cartel.(source)
7. Pablo Escobar offered to pay off Colombia’s 20 billion USD of foreign debt in order to avoid extradition to the US.
When the Colombian government turned the heat on the drug trade, Pablo Escobar approached the government with an unusual peace treaty. He offered to invest the cartel’s money into the national development programs and also pay off the foreign debt in return for not getting extradited to the US. The Colombian government refused.(source)
8. Pablo Escobar lost 10% of his annual income to rats which would eat the stashed currency notes.
Once Pablo Escobar entered the drug trade, cash began to flow in rapidly. He earned so much that he had to hide the piles of cash in Colombian farming fields, dilapidated warehouses and in the walls of the cartel members’ homes. Some of these cash piles would be eaten by rats or turn moldy due to water seepage resulting in a loss of 10% of his annual income (that would be 2.1 billion USD).(source)
9. Pablo Escobar employed ‘Plata O Plomo’ (Silver or Lead) policy in dealing with the law enforcement officials.
The Ruthless Escobar garnered numerous enemies during his rise as the drug lord. His growing influence was not liked by policemen, judges and even certain civilians. He used corruption and intimidation as twin weapons in dealing with the law enforcement officials. Escobar’s policy was referred to as ‘Plata o Plomo’, which literally meant silver or lead (out of which bullet is made) in Spanish. This meant, accept bribe or face assassination. When a judge or a police got in his way, Pablo would try to bribe them (Plata). But if they refused bribe, he would order them to be killed(Plomo) sometimes including the members of their family.(source)
10. One of Pablo Escobar’s most efficient cocaine labs was a village on wheels.
Cocaine labs employing hundreds of people were built deep inside a forest. These labs became small cities with schools, canteens and medical centers. One of the efficient labs was a huge farm on the borders of Venezuela. This lab was a village on wheels. When a flight was due to pick up or drop off a consignment, the houses in this village would be wheeled back, exposing the landing strip and wheeled forward again when the plane took off.(source)
11. When Pablo Escobar’s daughter was ill, he burnt 2 million USD of currency notes to keep her warm.
According to Sebastian Marroquin nee Juan Pablo Escobar (son of Pablo Escobar), the family was always on the move trying to escape from Police. Once when the family was hiding in a farm in the Medellin mountainside, Manuela, Sebastian’s sister and Pablo Escobar’s younger daughter became hypothermic. The worried father then decided to burn 2 million USD of currency notes to keep his family warm.(source)
12. Pablo Escobar blew up an aircraft in an attempt to kill a Presidential candidate who supported his extradition.
Pablo Escobar through his henchmen blew up the Avianca flight 203 on November 27th, 1989. The bombing of the plane was considered the deadliest single criminal attack in many decades of the Colombian violence. The bomb was planted intending to kill the then Presidential candidate, Cesar Gaviria Trujillo, a politician who supported Pablo Escobar’s extradition process between Colombia and the US. Gaviria, however, was not on the flight. Instead, all 107 people on board the aircraft were killed including 2 Americans.(source)
13. Today a herd of 40 Hippos roam the countryside of Colombia after the private zoo of Pablo Escobar was abandoned.
In the late 1980s, Escobar smuggled four hippos, three female and a male, into Colombia for his private zoo at his residence in Hacienda Napoles. After the death of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian authorities thought it would be too difficult to capture and transfer these animals. So they were left in his estate untended. By 2007, these hippos had turned feral and also multiplied to sixteen. The herd had no fear of human and had taken to roaming the area for food. They made the nearby Magdalena river as their home. By 2014, the hippo population had exploded to 40 and were proving to be a nuisance to the local populace.(source)
14. Pablo Escobar designed and built his own prison complete with waterbeds, entertainment systems and was protected by guards he personally chose.
In 1991, Pablo Escobar agreed to surrender to the Colombian authorities but on his terms. The Colombian government accepted the terms and thus La Catedral came into existence. La Catedral was a five-star prison designed and built by Pablo Escobar for his confinement. The luxury prison had water beds, entertainment systems and an unbroken view of Medellin mountains. From this prison, he conducted his business, ordered the deaths of his detractors, hosted booze and drug-filled parties, enjoyed his barbecue and football. He selected his own bodyguards and no Colombian authorities were allowed within a three-mile radius of this luxurious prison.(source 1,2)
15. Pablo Escobar was also responsible for several social projects. He built schools, hospitals, stadiums and churches for the impoverished.
Pablo Escobar was a ‘Hero’ to the poor, especially to the people of Barrio Pablo Escobar. He built houses, schools, stadiums and churches for the poor. He frequently distributed money to the poor communities. He even provided housing facilities to the local inhabitants who did not have a house of their own. He converted the wasteland into Barrio Pablo Escobar providing a roof for everyone. The people in gratitude often called him as the ‘Godfather’ or as ‘Robin Hood’.(source 1,2)