10 Biggest Drug Lords in the World

Few figures are as notorious–or as filthy rich–as drug lords. They make their money by smuggling illegal substances and terrorizing just about anyone less powerful than themselves. Drug traffickers are often wanted for their crimes in multiple countries since a lot of their money is earned by sneaking illegal narcotics across borders.

So, just how much money can these violent criminals make by peddling forbidden substances? Today we’ll be learning about 10 of the largest drug lords in the world according to their drug-based wealth and learning some unique facts about each one.

  1. Carlos Lehder

Drug Money Earned: $2.7 billion
Location: Colombia
Birth Year: 1949
Aliases: Medellin Cartel

Carlos Lehder  Source: wikimedia.org

This German-Colombian drug lord helped to co-found the infamous Medellin Cartel, along with several other figures who make this list. He first entered into the criminal world by selling stolen vehicles at his father’s used car business. In fact, it was while serving a prison sentence for selling stolen cars that Lehder decided that drug trafficking was his calling.

Did You Know?

Despite revolutionizing the Colombian drug trade with mules and air travel, Lehder’s true dream was to head up a new Colombian Neo-Nazi government.

  1. Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela

Drug Money Earned: $3 billion
Location: Colombia
Birth Year: 1939
Aliases: “El Ajedrecista” and “El Gino”

Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela  Source: wikimedia.org

Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela’s moniker “El Ajedrecista” translates to “The Chess Player” in English and was bestowed upon him because of how carefully he considered his every move. He was a joint leader of the Cali Cartel alongside his brother, Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, before beginning his 30-year prison sentence in the United States.

Did You Know?

Gilberto’s nephew, William Rodriguez Abadía, spoke out against the Netflix series “Narcos,” which he said misrepresented the true facts and tarnished his reputation as a result.

  1. Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha

Drug Money Earned: $5 billion
Location: Colombia
Birth Year: 1947
Aliases: “El Mexicano”

Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha  Source: wikimedia.org

Earning himself the title of “No. 2 leader” of the same Medellin Cartel that Carlos Lehder helped establish, Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha was one of the most wanted men in Colombia while he was at large. Rodriguez Gacha was also on the United States’ list of the dozen most-wanted Colombian drug traffickers.

Did You Know?

Rodriguez Gacha resisted arrest by the Colombian government, throwing grenades in a shootout that resulted in the death of himself and his 17-year-old son, Freddy.

  1. Khun Sa

Drug Money Earned: $5 billion
Location: Burma
Birth Year: 1934
Aliases: Zhang Qifu, Chan Changtrakul

Khun Sa  Source: wikimedia.org

Originally born Zhang Qifu, this infamous drug lord got military training from the Kuomintang and the Burmese Army before becoming independent and establishing himself as the “Opium King” of Myanmar. He dominated the Golden Triangle, controlling up to 70% of its heroin trade and becoming one of the most wanted men in the world by 1990.

Did You Know?

This “King of the Golden Triangle” changed his name to Khun Sa to reflect his trade power and maternal heritage, since the name means “Prince Prosperous” in the Burmese Shan dialect.

  1. Ochoa Vasquez brothers

Drug Money Earned: $6 billion
Location: Colombia
Birth Year: 1949, 1957, and 1950
Aliases: The Medellin Cartel

Ochoa Vasquez brothers  Source: wikimedia.org

Fabio Ochoa Restrepo may have had a wholesome background in the family restaurant and cattle farming business, but that didn’t stop his sons Juan David, Jorge Luis, and Fabio from getting into drug trafficking. Juan David, the eldest, enlisted his two brothers’ help in contributing to the establishment of the infamous Medellin Cartel. He turned himself in during 1991 and served only five years.

Did You Know?

Fabio, the youngest of the three brothers, spent the 1970’s and 1980’s purportedly handling thousands of pounds of cocaine.

  1. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar

Drug Money Earned: $6.7 billion
Location: India
Birth Year: 1955
Aliases: Aziz Abdul and Dawood Memon

Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar  Source: wikimedia.org

Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar is currently the most wanted criminal in India, with a reward of $25 million being offered in return for his capture. He goes by a whopping 21 different aliases and is suspected to have been involved in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 1993 and 2008.

Did You Know?

In addition to his litany of other questionable activities, Kaskar has been suspected and accused of financing Pakistani Taliban militants, although Pakistan claims no knowledge of his whereabouts and evidence is scarce.

  1. Alfredo Beltran Leyva

Drug Money Earned: $10 billion
Location: Mexico
Birth Year: 1971
Aliases: “El Mochomo”

Alfredo Beltran Leyva  Source: wikimedia.org

Alfredo Beltran Leyva smuggled multi-ton loads of methamphetamine and cocaine from South America and Mexico into the United States. Along with his brother Arturo, he gained infamy as one of the most-wanted drug traffickers in Mexico. Arturo was killed in a 2009 shootout, but Alfredo continued his reign of terror until 2017 when he was sentenced to life in prison.

Did You Know?

Levya’s forfeiture amount was set based on a forgiving estimate of the value of the cocaine that he smuggled to the United States border.

  1. Amado Carrillo Fuentes

Drug Money Earned: $25 billion
Location: Mexico
Birth Year: 1997
Aliases: “El Señor de Los Cielos”

Amado Carrillo Fuentes  Source: wikimedia.org

Amado Carrillo Fuentes was known for his brutality after murdering his boss, Rafael Aguilar Guajardo, and seizing control of the Juárez Cartel. In addition to his drug-related crimes, he also laundered money through Colombia to finance his fleets. He later died in a Mexican hospital in 1997 after getting intensive plastic surgery in order to alter his appearance and avoid being recognized.

Did You Know?

Amado Carrillo Fuentes was the first drug lord to use private planes to traffic cocaine around the world, earning him his nickname “El Señor de Los Cielos,” or “Lord of the Skies”.

  1. Christopher Coke

Drug Money Earned: $30 billion
Location: Jamaica
Birth Year: 1969
Aliases: Dudus, Paul Christopher Scott, Presi, President, General, Shortman, and Omar Clark

Christopher Coke  Source: wikimedia.org

Following in the footsteps of his father Christopher Coke, founder of the notoriously violent Shower Posse, this Jamaican drug lord trafficked huge amounts of cocaine, marijuana, and firearms. However, alongside his criminal activities, he established programs to assist impoverished members of the community. He earned so much community support that capturing him in Kingston, Jamaica was a harrowing five-week ordeal with many casualties.

Did You Know?

Christopher Coke’s attitude in court in 2012 was remarkably unapologetic, with him stating “I’m pleading guilty because I am,” before being given his 23-year sentence.

  1. Pablo Escobar

Drug Money Earned: $30 billion
Location: Colombia
Birth Year: 1949
Aliases: Don Pablo, El Padrino, El Patrón, El Señor, El Mágico, El Pablito, and El Zar de la Cocaína

Pablo Escobar   Source: wikimedia.org

Pablo Escobar was the largest drug lord in the world in terms of drug revenue. This Colombian Drug Kingpin, easily the best-known co-founder of the Medellin Cartel, had ambitions of becoming the President of Colombia. He gained plenty of popularity by sponsoring charities and sports but eventually undermined his own reputation with excessive and often indiscriminate violence.

Did You Know?

Pablo Escobar’s accountant claimed that he spent $2,500 a month on nothing but the rubber bands needed to wrap up his staggering amount of illegal cash.

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