The allure of big money and the lifestyle of the wealthiest have always drawn attention, envy, and desire. The glamour and beauty of the ‘have-it-all’ vibe have been a reason for thousands of romanticized stories to reach the public – from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather to Al Capone – life and deeds of dangerous men occupied print and screen. Here are the Top 10 of the richest drug lords’ true stories.
Beyond Borders and Bounds: The Astonishing Wealth of the World’s Richest Drug Lords
The richest drug lord in history and certainly one of the most famous, Pablo Escobar or also known as the king of cocaine, notorious for his pack of hippos among anything else, is a name equivalent to richness and drug cartels that echo through every corner of the world. Extravagant riches and living on the brim of death – every drug lord plays a dangerous game with law and order.
Pablo Escobar’s fortune was estimated at 33 billion dollars at his death in 1993. Escobar was known to deal with cocaine and is said to have established a monopoly in the cocaine trade in the United States in the 80s. The rumor has it Escobar used air channels mainly and submarines for drug delivery along the coast of the USA. In its heyday, his drug organization smuggled 11 tons of drugs to America on a single delivery.
The Colombian boss is world-famous not only because he worked in both the Americas but also in Asia. His life of crime was divided between the image of the Colombian Robin Hood he supported and murder, bribery, and drug selling. His enormous mansion had a private zoo and an arena for bullfights designed to entertain his family and those working for his organization. Unfortunately, his fortune was not enough to save him from a fatal shooting by the police. Netflix’s famous TV show Narcos can tell you a lot about Escobar’s life.
The Mexico-born Fuentes became one of the most cruel and power-driven drug lords ever. He killed Rafael Aguilar Guajardo to get the leader’s position in the Juarez cartel. Fuentes’s nickname was ‘The Lord of the Skies’ because he used a fleet of airplanes to fly his drugs. His fortunes are believed to have been around 28 billion.
Fuentes met a somewhat ironic death. He attempted to hide from law and order by undergoing plastic surgery in 1997. Unfortunately, he died on the operating table due to unspecified complications. The cartel retaliated by torturing and killing the two surgeons who performed the operations. Despite his unbelievable fortune, Fuentes didn’t manage to enjoy it.
Semion Mogilevich is of Ukrainian descent but operates a complex criminal structure in Russia that reaches the whole world. Described as very powerful and believed by the FBI to be the most dangerous criminal in the world. Mogilevich’s riches are calculated at 10 billion dollars. It is rumored that Mogilevich keeps good relations with the current president of Russia – Vladimir Putin.
Ibrahim is another still active and free drug lord who is on the list of most wanted criminals. He is of Indian origin, and his headquarters were in Mumbai. Indian government sold his properties in India in 2017 under the SAFEMA Act. Authorities suspect he was behind the 1993 bombing in Bombay, which made him a global terrorist. His whereabouts as of currently are unknown by the Indian government. His 7.5 billion dollars fortune seems to be paying him well.
The Ochoa brothers
Jorge, Huan David, and Fabio Ochoa were among the leaders of the infamous Medellin cartel. Their fortunes were estimated at around 7 billion dollars, making them some of the biggest drug lords from Mexico. They participated in establishing a group named ‘Death to Kidnappers’ after their sister Martha was taken by guerrilla kidnappers in 1981. The Ochoa brothers eventually turned themselves in and served tier sentences in Columbian prison.
Jose Gonzalo Rodrigez Gacha
Gacha is one of the narco bosses who started the Medellin cartel along with Pablo Escobar, the Ochoa brothers, and Carlos Lehder. He was the mastermind of setting up drug laboratories in the jungle where thousands of people were invested daily in preparing the cocaine the drug cartel sold widely in North America and Mexico.
Gacha, whose initial career was as a murderer, found his way to the drug world with the help of the ‘Queen of Cocaine’ Veronica Riviera. The fact that he later killed her shows that there is no gratitude in the narco world. He died violently in 1989; his fortunes were around 6 billion dollars.
Khun Sa was called ‘The King of Opium’ of Myanmar, but drug dealing wasn’t his only business. He was known for his army, which he was forced to disband in 1996 when he surrendered to the government of Burma. Allegedly, Khun Sa was fighting for the independence of the Shan state. After his surrender, he went into the official business with projects in construction. His fortune was approximately 6 billion.
The Rodriguez brothers
The Cali Cartel was a drug dealing organization that included men who separated from the Medellin cartel and started running a rival one. It was founded by the Rodriguez brothers, Gilberto and Miguel, Jose “Don Chepe” Londono, and Helmer “Pacho” Herrera. During its active years, between 1977 to 1995, it consisted of around 6000 people. In the 90s, the Cali cartel controlled 80% of the business with drugs in Europe and the world. The Rodriguez brothers’ fortune was around 3.39 billion dollars.
Among the richest drug lords and biggest drug cartel leaders is another Colombian, said to be a co-founder of the Medellin Cartel. Along with Escobar, Lehder smuggled incredible amounts of cocaine into the USA and is rumored to have created a base for drug export in the Bahamas. His fortune was estimated to be 3 billion dollars before he was captured by the police.
Lehder served a 33-year-long sentence in an American prison and is said to be one of the biggest drug lords ever successfully prosecuted by an American court. Additionally, to his drug smuggling career, Lehder initiated a political party with a neo-Nazi political program. Lehder, similarly to Escobar, is an inspiration for the Netflix TV series Narcos.
Joaquin Guzman might not be the wealthiest kingpin ever, but he is, without a doubt, among the richest drug lords currently. He is serving a life-long sentence in the USA. In 2009 Forbes estimated his fortunes to be around 1 billion dollars. Among the richest drug lords still alive and among the most notorious, El Chapo was declared Chicago’s public enemy number 1. Al Capone was the only other person rewarded with this ‘title’ before him.
After the police caught Guzman, the Sinaloa Cartel found its new leader in the face of Ismael Garcia, also known as El Mayo. He is probably the biggest drug lord right now since the Sinaloa cartel is the most powerful drug trafficking organization worldwide. Drug dealing is a profitable business, as we saw in the Top 10 cases, and it happens everywhere in the world, especially in countries with higher rates of corruption and poverty.
If not the biggest drug lord in the United States, but indeed one of the most well-known is ‘Freeway’ Rick Ross, who successfully built a drug dealing empire in Los Angeles in the 80s. His drug trafficking spread throughout the country before he was imprisoned and given a life sentence for his crimes. His fortunes were estimated at 600 million dollars. His sentence was reduced, and Rick Ross wrote an autobiography in 2009.
Nowadays, drug dealing is much more covert than it used to be. The prime of big cartels is long past due to the more efficient work of authorities. Time will show who the next top ten drug dealers are regarding riches. They will always ignite public curiosity. Since then, you can turn to the world of literature and cinema for a popular culture version of the history of drug dealing.
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