Born In: Armenia, Colombia
Carlos Lehder is a German-Colombian former drug lord who was released from prison in the United States after 33 years. Lehder’s involvement in criminal activities started early on. When his father started selling used cars, Lehder gave criminal touch to the business by selling stolen cars. It was while serving a sentence for car theft that Lehder was struck with the idea of drug trafficking. His ultimate scheme was to revolutionize the cocaine trade by transporting the drug to the United States, using small aircraft. Together with Jung, a fellow prison inmate, Lehder formed the roots of what would become a magnanimously huge cocaine empire. He co-founded Medellin Cartel, a ruthless and highly organized Colombian drug cartel that operated with the sole objective of managing drug trafficking. He also founded a political party that forced Colombia to abrogate extradition. However, Lehder’s scandalous, illicit and immoral outings timed out when Colombian government took a firm stand against drug dealers and traffickers! Carlos Lehder was arrested and imprisoned in the United States, only to be released after 33 years, in 2020.
Also Known As: Carlos Enrique Lehder Rivas
father: Willheim Lehder Rivas
mother: Helena Rivas
children: Monica Lehder
Born Country: Colombia
Carlos Lehder was born on September 7, 1949, in Armenia, Colombia, into a German-Colombian family. His father was a German engineer while his mother was a Colombian school teacher.
Early on, the family resided in the Medellin area. They had a semi-legally approved used car business. It was during this time that Lehder first got involved in criminal activities. He started stealing cars and supplying it to his father who sold them as used cars.
By the time Carlos Lehder became an adult, he had completely immersed himself into criminal activities. Starting off as a stolen car dealer, he progressed to becoming a marijuana dealer and a smuggler of stolen cars between US and Canada.
Lehder’s car theft business got him into a prison in Danbury, Connecticut. It was while serving his sentence that he decided to start dealing in cocaine. By then, drug addiction in America had caught up with the youth and more and more people demanded the drug. He struck a deal with his prison inmate George Jung, a former marijuana dealer, as his future partner in the cocaine business.
Lehder updated himself with all the necessary information required for starting his cocaine business. He learned tricks of money laundering and smuggling and also trained himself in the skills required for cocaine transport. He spend hours questioning inmates and taking down notes. He filed all the information for future use.
The duo’s first successful cocaine transportation was realized when two young women who were on paid holiday to Antigua brought the drug to the country in their suitcase. The trick paid off and both the women indulged in several such trips to help Lehder and Jung have enough to buy an aeroplane.
Instead of buying an aeroplane, Lehder used stolen aeroplane for his budding cocaine empire. He hired a professional pilot who transported the drug into US via Bahamas. In no time, he built�on his financial resources, bribed Bahamian government officials for political and judicial protection and started building connection and trust with Colombian suppliers.
Until the 1970s, all seemed OK between Lehder-Jung, but soon, it all began to swerve, thanks to Lehder’s secret scheming of securing a personal island in Bahamas and turning it into the his fledgling empire’s headquarters.
Norman's Cay, the island that Carlos Lehder eyed upon, had about 100 private homes, a yacht club, a marina and an air strip. To evacuate the island, he started torturing the residents to the point of making them leave it, either forcefully or through bribery. His efforts finally paid off as Norman's Cay came under the control of Lehder. It served as his privately owned lawless paradise.
During the time Lehder was directing his resources to take control of Norman's Cay, he forced Jung out of the partnership. He then found a new partner in international criminal financier Robert Vesco. By 1978, Lehder had turned Cay into a drug smuggling hub. He made it his tropical hideaway and a playground for his drug deals.
Lehder and his associates flew cocaine in from Colombia by jet and then reloaded it into the small aircraft that further distributed it to locations in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas. Lehder received 1 kilo out of every 4 that was transported through Norman's Cay.
For the smooth running of the cocaine transportation, Lehder built a 3,300-foot runway protected by radar, bodyguards, and Doberman attack dogs. Almost 300 kg of cocaine would arrive on the island daily. His personal wealth rose into billions of dollars.
He expanded his influence into the political arena as well. He founded the National Latino Movement which managed three congressional seats and popularized itself by making speeches against extradition.
After the assassination, the then Colombian President, Belisario Betancur, revised his previous policy and announced his willingness to extradite Colombian drug lords to the United States. Lehder, who by then had become a big name in the drug industry, featured at the top in the crackdown list.
Carlos Lehder’s downfall started when American investigative journalist�Brian Ross�exposed Lehder’s blatant bribing of Bahamian officials and his unauthorized and unlawful activities on Norman's Cay. In his report on September 1983 in NBC, he made public the corruption of Bahamian government leaders.
Ross’ report resulted in dire consequences for Lehder – he could not return to Norman's Cay. His bank accounts were seized and so were his property and possessions. Once a billionaire, he was now a man without money and power. To escape arrest, he ran into the jungle where he got ill.
Just when everything seemed dimed out for Lehder, Pablo Escobar came to his rescue. He sent a helicopter for Lehder and brought him back to Medellín, where he provided medical attention. When Lehder fully recovered Escobar hired him as a bodyguard.
Carlos Lehder wanted to rebuild his fortune; he established a farm in Colombia. According to sources, one of his new employees informed the police of his location. As per some other report, members of the Medellín Cartel were not happy to have Lehder by their side. They believed he would jeopardize their cocaine empire. To throw him out, Escobar himself provided Lehder's whereabouts to the police, leading to his capture.
In 1995, there were rumours of Lehder being set free, but it was later learnt that Lehder was tranferred to another prison. He was held in WITSEC, the US Bureau of Prisons’ version of the federal Witness Protection Program.
Lehder was released from prison on June 16, 2020, and escorted to Germany and handed over to German authorities by two US officials.
How To Cite
People Also Viewed