10. Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela
The Cali Cartel, named after the Colombian city where it was based, was established by a pair of brothers, Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela and Jose Santacruz Londono. The trio had once been part of the infamous Medellin Cartel, run by the even more infamous Pablo Escobar (who makes his own appearance later in this list) but they decided to branch out on their own in the 1980s. At their height, it was thought that the brothers and their associates in the cartel controlled about 90% of the world’s cocaine trade, and that their business was worth several billion dollars a year.
9. Jose Gonzalez Rodriguez Gacha
José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha was one of the most successful members of the Medellin cartel – until his death in 1989, when he was killed in a shoot-out with the Colombian authorities in the city of Cartagena. Gacha was such a success at trafficking cocaine from Colombia to the west coast of the US, that the prestigious Forbes magazine even included him in their annual list of worldwide billionaires in 1988! When it came to his funeral, thousands of people lined the streets in his hometown of Pacho, where Gacha had donated money to renovate buildings and help local families.
8. Carlos Lehder
One of the founding members of the Medellin cartel, Carlos Lehder, was a major player in the cocaine trafficking business, and even survived an attempted kidnapping in 1981. Colombian guerrillas would often kidnap members of the drug cartels or their families, using the ransom payments they extorted to fund their continuing fight against the government. Lehder was finally caught by the Colombian authorities and then extradited to the US in 1987. He then agreed to testify against other key figures in the drug trade, and received a shortened 55-year sentence in exchange for his co-operation.
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