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Pablo Escobar is one of the most notorious criminal kingpins in history. The last of a dying breed, he ruled over other criminals with an iron fist, intimated authorities into respecting him and turning a blind eye, and was a hero of the common people for pouring billions of dollars into Colombian infrastructure such as sporting fields, security, and housing for the homeless. Below are seventeen fascinating facts about the late warlord.
– At the height of his success in the late-‘80s, Escobar was responsible for 80% of the cocaine brought into the US, earning an estimated USD$420 million a week in revenue during this time.
– Although his earnings were never made official — as they weren’t exactly above board — Escobar was listed in Forbes’ feted International Billionaires List from 1987 until his death in 1993.
– Escobar begun his criminal career as a teenager, by stealing gravestones, sanding them down, and reselling the slate. He then started counterfeiting high school diplomas, selling fake lottery tickets, and flogging loose cigarettes.
– Although the toll his actions took on the US cannot be underestimated, he was considered a hero in Colombia for his generous spirit: funding and building over seventy soccer fields for kids to play in, and constructing numerous neighbourhoods to house the homeless. His nickname: Robin Hood.
– Pablo was quite sentimental: when a friend of his died while crash-landing one of the planes Escobar used for smuggling cocaine, he recovered the scrap metal and hung it above the gate of his ranch as a tribute to his fallen friend.
– When Colombia could no longer turn a blind eye to his criminal dealings, he cut a deal in which he agreed to a prison term, as long as he himself could construct and fund the prison. The luxury estate was named “La catedral” — the cathedral — and contained five-star ballrooms, soccer fields, a waterfall, and other non-prison type amenities.
– Such was Escobar’s hold over Colombia’s government that when negotiating his own surrender, he stipulated that the national constitution be rewritten to avoid his extradition to the US. They agreed.
– Kanye West’s most recent album The Life Of Pablo was named after both Escobar and Picasso. The artwork asks coyly ‘which one’. A line in the album explicitly referred the kingpin: “I feel like Pablo when I see me on the news. I feel like Pablo when I’m workin’ on my house.”
– While in prison, Escobar hosted the entire Colombia national soccer team for a friendly soccer match. Prison guards served drinks, and later helped cater a luncheon for the guests. This was the same team that would later qualify for the 1994 World Cup.
– The biggest ever haul he shipped in one go was 23,000 kg of cocaine, which he simply mixed with fish paste and transported via a boat.
– He had so much cash that needed to be bundled and transported, that he spent $30,000 a year on rubber bands!
– Escobar was earning $26 billion US a year at the heights of his powers, but had to write off 2.6 billion of that due to rats eating the cash stacked in the lower reaches of his vault! Evidently, his reign of terror did not extend to rodents.
– Over 600 police officers were killed by various hit men employed by Escobar over the years to keep authorities at bay.
– Although he was living large in his self-made prison, authorities were concerned he was still trafficking and dealing in illegal activities and so they planned to move him to a more conventional prison. The move was planned for July 22, 1992, but Pablo was so well-connected he found out in advance and used this opportunity to make an escape. He was never imprisoned again.
– Pablo Escobar was shot dead by police on December 2, 1993, after evading authorities for 16 months following his escape from La Catedral. The fatal shot entered his brain through his ear, and no police officer has taken credit for the kill-shot. In fact, Escobar’s brothers believe that he shot himself, taking his own life before anyone else could.
– Escobar’s Robin Hood image remained even in death, particularly amongst the city’s poor, with over 25,000 mourners attending his funeral.
– During his life time, Escobar buried masses of his fortune all over Colombia, from coves and the jungle to secret compartments in his various houses. Urban legends have led many to believe a vast majority of it has never been found.
Watch the new series, FINDING ESCOBAR’S MILLIONS on Discovery Channel Australia & New Zealand, Thursdays from 19 April at 8:30pm AEST/NZ.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Posted by Nathan Jolly
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