We’ve all heard the expression crime doesn’t pay, but in the case of Pablo Escobar it definitely did pay, at least until his death at the hands of the Colombian National Police at the age of 44. Even though Pablo lived a relatively short life the financial gains that he made from his criminal career are the stuff of legends. Not only was he the richest criminal that has ever lived, at one stage he was one of the wealthiest men in the World due to his overwhelming control of the cocaine market and the respect he gained from those who surrounded him.
Pablo Escobar earned that respect not only from his efficient control of the Medellin Cartel, but also through ruthless acts of terrorism against rival cartels, the police, politicians, judges and anyone who would oppose him. Although his incredible wealth grew as a result of the drug trade, history will always remember him as an outstandingly violent narco-terrorist and rightfully so, but Pablo Escobar was also responsible for many charitable acts in his homeland which gained him a strong popular following and eventually led to him being elected to high office in Colombia. This complex career criminal displayed the best and worst behaviors of humanity during his life, but how exactly did Pablo Escobar make such an incredible amount of money? Read on to find out.
Pablo Escobar Net Worth 2018 – $30 Billion ($56 Billion in 2017)
How Did Pablo Escobar Make His Money & Wealth
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was born on December 1st 1949 near to the city of Medellin, Colombia. His father, Abel De Jesus, was a farmer and his mother Hermilda was a teacher at a local elementary school. Although he was born in humble surroundings it quickly became clear that Pablo was unlikely to follow in his fathers footsteps and become a farmer himself, as by the time he was a teenager he had already become involved in a variety of criminal activities.
During Pablo’s early life Colombia was in the midst of a violent period of political instability and virtual civil war. Crime was a common route for many young people to take and Pablo was no exception. He began counterfeiting lottery tickets and University diplomas, particularly targeting the University of Medellin where he had studied briefly. Escobar worked as a bodyguard and stole cars before eventually moving on to kidnapping. At the age of 22 he was already a millionaire through the practice of kidnapping executives and wealthy Colombians, later demanding ransoms of as much as $100,000 for their release. By 26 he was worth $3 million and began developing a cocaine smuggling operation between Colombia and Panama, using lucrative established smuggling routes to import the drug into the United states.
Pablo Escobar’s operation began on a small scale, in 1975 he was flying small amounts of cocaine inside plane tires, sometimes as little as 40 pounds in weight. In 1976 he was arrested with several others in possession of 39 pounds of the drug, but after unsuccessfully attempting to bribe the judges in Medellin who would be trying him he ordered that the two police officers who had originally arrested him be murdered, and with threats of more killings the case was soon dropped. This began Pablo Escobar’s rise under his ‘Silver or Lead’ policy, basically meaning that those who opposed his business could either accept his bribes, or face a bloody and violent end.
The profits to be made from the cocaine business were huge, Pablo’s small scale operation quickly expanded into a fleet of aircraft to smuggle the drug. Not only did he employ independent pilots to ferry cocaine into the United States, with the promise of earnings of up to $500,000 per flight, but he also had under his control fifteen large aircraft including a Learjet and several helicopters. The demand for cocaine in the United States, and around the World went through the roof and the money flowed back to Colombia in incredible quantities. As the infamy of Escobar’s Medellin cartel grew, his Silver or Lead policy resulted in the deaths of hundreds of officials and police officers, as well as countless civilians who merely stood in the way of his efficient smuggling operation. It is suspected he was behind the 1989 killing of Luis Carlos Galan, the Colombian Presidential candidate who had pledged to extradite him to the United States and put the cartels out of business. The bombing of Aviancia Airlines Flight 203 in 1990, which resulted in the deaths of 110 innocent people, was believed to be an attempt by Escobar to assassinate another presidential candidate, Cesar Gaviria Trujillo, but the politician was not even on the plane. Escobar surrendered to Colombian authorities after the new Colombian constitution, signed into law in 1991, forbid the extradition of Colombians to the United states. He served one year in prison, but it was hardly what you could call a just punishment. As the lone prisoner in a specially built jail he had paid for, he enjoyed the luxuries of a bar, jacuzzi and even a waterfall, but in 1992, after reports of his continued criminal operation began to surface and the Colombian authorities attempted to move him to a more traditional jail, he escaped and became a fugitive for the rest of his life.
The huge profits that Pablo Escobar made were spent on huge, lavishly decorated estates and properties around the World. He bought an island in the Bahamas and hoped to avoid the authorities there but he still could not launder the immense profits that his operation brought in. In 1989 Forbes named Pablo as one of the top 20 richest men in the World, estimating his personal fortune was $3 billion, but Pablo’s son later contacted the magazine to inform them that they were ‘not even close’ to the true amount of his fathers fortune.
At his peak in the 1980’s, Pablo Escobar is believed to have made at least $60 million per day from his illegal activities, resulting in an annual gain of over $22 billion. Even now in 2018, without adjusting for inflation, his earnings were equivalent to the average earnings of over four million Colombians, or 425,000 average earning Americans, which co-incidentally is approximately the total population of Miami, Florida, a city that certainly contributed heavily to his profits. Once the cash had returned to Colombia it couldn’t be spent or laundered fast enough, Pablo spent at least $1,000 a week in rubber bands just to keep the money neatly stacked, and eventually he began stashing his illegal earnings in derelict buildings, cemeteries and simply buried in huge piles just because he had so much. While on the run with his family in the jungles of Colombia, he once burned $2 million in cash simply to keep his daughter warm. If his annual earnings had been stacked in an immense pile of one dollar bills it would have stretched almost 1,500 miles into the sky, adjusted for inflation Pablo was earning more than Union Pacific, Starbucks or even Facebook today in 2017.
Pablo casually accepted that up to 10% of his annual earnings would simply rot away in the ground, or be eaten by rats, and despite his fearsome reputation amongst law enforcement he also showed great compassion to the poor inhabitants of Medellin. He sponsored sports teams and funded the building of schools and churches. He supplied over 80% of the cocaine consumed in the United States for over a decade and was the target of what the Bush administration labeled the ‘Biggest Manhunt in History’, but he was greatly loved by the simple and poor people of Medellin, even today there is a neighborhood named after this modern day Robin Hood in the city.
Ultimately Pablo’s life came to a violent and bloody end sixteen months after his escape from prison. He was tracked down to a middle-class neighborhood in Medellin and the building he was in was completely surrounded. He and his bodyguard attempted to escape the net by running across rooftops but were gunned down in a hail of bullets. Pablo was shot several times but the fatal wound was a gunshot through his head. Many believe that Pablo took his own life while seriously injured in order to escape justice in his final act of rebellion against the authorities.
Pablo Escobar Personal Life & FAQ’s
Was Pablo Escobar Married?
In 1976 at the age of 27, Pablo married Maria Victoria Henao, she was just 15 at the time. Maria’s family considered Pablo to be inferior socially which caused the couple to elope. They later had two children, a son Juan in 1977, and a daughter Manuela in 1984. After Pablo Escobar’s violent end the family fled to Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and South Africa seeking refuge from Colombian authorities, but eventually they were granted refuge in Argentina. Maria has since remained quietly hidden away in the country but Juan, who later changed his name to Sebastian Marroquín was the subject of ‘Sins of My Father’, a 2009 documentary that followed him as he sought reconciliation with the relatives of those who had been killed by his father. In 2014 Sebastian wrote a book ‘Pablo Escobar: My Father’ under his original name and contributed the profits from it to Colombian charities.
Where Did Pablo Escobar Live?
Pablo Escobar owned at least eighty properties in his native Colombia, perhaps most well known of which is the Hacienda Napoles. The property contained a luxurious colonial style house, extensive well-maintained grounds and such extravagant attractions as it’s own private zoo, containing many rare animals including flocks of exotic birds, elephants, giraffes, zebras and hippopotamuses. He bought his own private island, the largest one of the Rosaria Islands off of the coast of Colombia hoping that he would be safe there from the attentions of the authorities. He built a huge compound on the island featuring a mansion, several apartments for his bodyguards and numerous courtyards, swimming pools and a heli-pad. Pablo Escobar even owned a property in Miami Beach, Florida in his own name. It was a 6,500 square foot waterfront mansion complete with four bedrooms and a pink color scheme, but that home at least wasn’t his for long, it was seized by the US government in the mid 1980’s as his notoriety in the United States grew.
Pablo Escobar Salary & Annual Earnings in 2017
As already mentioned, Pablo’s wealth was exceptional and almost unimaginable, but the true scale of his wealth will probably never be known. Forbes estimated his wealth as $3 billion during their 1989 list of the World’s richest people, but their estimation of his fortune was almost certainly far below his true worth. At the time the World’s richest man was Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, the Japanese railway tycoon who boasted a fortune of $15 billion, but with Pablo’s incredible profits from his huge and extensive criminal empire, it’s entirely possible that at that time, he was not only the richest criminal the World has ever known, but he could well have been the richest man in the World. At about the same period Pablo had offered to pay off the entire Colombian national debt, totalling approximately $10 billion, in exchange for all charges and proceedings against him being dropped, the Colombian authorities rejected the offer but it does show the likely worth of Pablo Escobar during the late 1980’s. He is believed to have imported at least 80% of the cocaine used in the United States throughout the 1980’s but globally he was responsible for at least 85% of the cocaine imported.
Pablo Escobar’s Legacy and Cultural Impact
Pablo Escobar was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of hundreds, if not thousands of people in Colombia, not counting the human cost of the devastating effects of the addictive drug that he transported throughout the World, but in his native Colombia he is still considered a hero to many of the ordinary Colombians that he supported during his lifetime. His funeral was attended by over 25,000 genuinely grieving Colombians and his legacy in Medellin can be seen in the many businesses, churches and organizations that owe their beginnings to his generosity. Despite the violence that characterized his life, Pablo Escobar’s life was filled with contradictions, and he was much loved by many of his countrymen.
The cultural impact of Escobar’s life is huge, he has been the subject of many books, documentaries and several feature films, most notably ‘Pablo Escobar : The King of Coke’, released by National Geographic in 2007. In 2015 Netflix began showing the hugely popular drama ‘Narcos’, a drama which closely mirrors the real events of Pablo Escobar’s life.