We usually concern ourselves with addiction and abuse on Addictive Addiction, but in this article we’re looking into drug lords in Mexico, Colombia and even Europe, seeing what it takes to be a drug kingpin, how much money they make and how they eventually get caught.
They say that crime doesn’t pay. In the long-term it doesn’t, but these guys lived it up while they could and had wealth and power that many small countries would be envious of.
Famous Drug Lords and Kingpins
So, who was the biggest drug kingpin; who are the biggest drug lords? You may know a few of these names as there are several who have made it into the public spotlight.
But for every 1 that makes it into the spotlight, there are many more who go unnoticed, shipping everything from schedule 1 drugs like heroin to prescription meds like Gabapentin around the world. So, let’s take a look at this from both sides.
Biggest Mexican Drug Lord
We have all heard of El Chapo, a immensely rich Mexican drug lord who we will discuss a later on, but who else makes it onto our list of the biggest Mexican drug lords?
Another big name was Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who controlled the Juarez Cartel after killing his previous boss. He would traffic vast quantities of drugs into the United States via his own fleet of private jets, before laundering his money through Colombia and other parts of South America.
In his short career it is said that he earned revenue in excess of $25 billion. Not the biggest Mexican drug kingpin, but his legacy can still be felt throughout South America and he left a sizable trail of blood in his wake.
Unlike may drug kingpins who die in a hail of bullets or on the executioner’s chair, Fuentes died following extensive plastic surgery, which he undertook in an effort to change his appearance.
Biggest Columbian Drug Lord
By far the biggest drug kingpin in the history of Colombia is Pablo Escobar. He was rich beyond belief, so much so that he once entered Colombian politics and offered to pay off their rather sizable national debt. He kept vast amounts of cash in large warehouses and is said to have spent several thousand just on the elastic bands used to keep these bundles stacked.
He controlled armies and police forces and was one of the most powerful men in the world throughout the 1980s. Forbes once listed him as the 7th richest man in the world when he was at his peak. He eventually died aged 44 following a shootout with law enforcement.
Other Colombian drug lords include Jorge Alberto Rodrigues, who was actually born in New York, and Griselda Blanco, who shipped cocaine from Colombia to Miami in the 1970s and 1980s.
Biggest American Drug Lord
America is often the final destination for drugs smuggled by major drug kingpins. But there have also been many major American drug kingpins over the years.
One of the most famous of these was Rick Ross, known as “Freeway”. This American drug lord controlled a large drug empire in the city of Los Angeles in the 1980s. He made hundreds of millions of dollars smuggling drugs into and out of the city, spreading these across the United States.
It is estimated that he once made as much as $2 million in a single day. Rock Ross’s net worth surpassed $500 million at one point in time.
The honor of biggest American drug lord, however, goes to Rakesh Jyoti Saran who ran a very modern drug empire in Arlington, Texas. Known by the moniker “Black Panther”, his empire was all online and he conducted his business in the late 1990s.
He would buy and resell vast quantities of prescription drugs (including codeine based drugs) with estimations suggesting that he was earning in excess of $50,000 a day. It’s not quite the same as the other notorious drug lords covered in this guide, but the sheer uniqueness of this empire and the fact that he operated the business on his own is what makes Saran so notorious.
Biggest European Drug Lord
We have all heard of Mexican drug lords and Columbian drug lords, but what about European ones? This is not as big of a region for drug kingpins simply because the laws are tighter, the landscape is not as suitable to grow large quantities of illicit drugs and the fact that so many first world countries are so close together means it can be very difficult to traffic these drugs.
One of the areas that has produced some powerful kingpins is Italy. The Mafia connections in cities like Naples and Sicily has led to the rise of men like Rocco Morabito, who was the boss of crime organization ‘ndrangheta. It has been said that the turnover of the ‘ndrangheta totaled 3.5% of Italy’s total GDP, with many of their transactions involving powerful cartels in Colombia and Mexico.
The ‘ndrangheta are just one of the groups that helped to move vast quantities of South American drugs throughout Europe, as far south as Greece and as far north as the UK and Norway.
What’s more, at the time of writing Rocco Morabito is still a free man, having successfully evaded capture for several years.
World’s Richest Drug Kingpin
Of all of the drug lords covered in this guide, there are two that put everyone else to shame. The first of these is Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. His antics are fairly recent. He has been captured several times and he once escaped a maximum security prison with the help of many sympathizers and his own private army. In 2016 he was captured by the Mexican army.
El Chapo was a cult hero in his native Mexico and he remains a legend to this day. He conceived several ingenious schemes to get drugs across the Mexican border, including the construction of tunnels which could be used to freely traffic vast quantities of cocaine.
Once said to be the second most powerful man in Mexican, El Chapo’s net worth had a peak of $1 billion. An astonishing amount no doubt, but not quite enough to topple Pablo Escobar. As mentioned above, this drug kingpin did things that no one else has been able to match. Pablo Escobar’s net worth was over $30 billion at his highest, which is roughly the same as the GDP of Paraguay!
He was cruel and ruthless and that’s why he is up there with history’s most sadistic, most murderous and most powerful men and women.