Colombian drug trafficker Carlos Lehder bought himself an island in the Bahamas where he put an airstrip which controlled the drugs coming in from South America and entering the US. He became so wealthy he offered to pay Colombia’s foreign debt for amnesty.

Norman’s Cay

In the late 1970s, the Lehder-Jung partnership began to diverge, due to some combination of Lehder’s megalomania and his secret scheming to secure a personal Bahamian island as an all-purpose headquarters for his operations.

That island was Norman’s Cay, which at that point consisted of a marina, a yacht club, approximately 100 private homes, and an airstrip. In 1978, Lehder began buying up property and harassing and threatening the island’s residents; at one point, a yacht was found drifting off the coast with the corpse of one of its owners aboard. Lehder is estimated to have spent $4.5 million on the island in total.

As Lehder paid or forced the local population to leave, and began to assume total control of the island, Norman’s Cay became his lawless private fiefdom. By this time, he had forced Jung out of the operation, and international criminal financier Robert Vesco had allegedly become a partner. Jung used his prior connections to take up a more modest line of independent smuggling for Pablo Escobar and stayed out of Lehder’s way.

From 1978 through 1982, the Cay was the Caribbean’s main drug-smuggling hub, and a tropical hideaway and playground for Lehder and associates. They flew cocaine in from Colombia on all sorts of aircraft able to land fully loaded on the airstrip, reloaded it into various small aircraft, and then distributed it to locations in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. Lehder was believed to have received 1 kilo out of every 4 that was transported through Norman’s Cay. Continue Reading (7 minute read)

12 thoughts on “Colombian drug trafficker Carlos Lehder bought himself an island in the Bahamas where he put an airstrip which controlled the drugs coming in from South America and entering the US. He became so wealthy he offered to pay Colombia’s foreign debt for amnesty.”

  1. Siray

    I used to live in the Bahamas back in the late 80’s into the early 90’s. We had a private airstrip and one night, out of nowhere, this massive plane comes flying in low over our house. My father was going to inspect when a staff member stopped him and told him to let it be. The next morning, my mother, sister and I were stopped dead in our tracks when a DEA helicopter blocked the road in front of us (didn’t have to go to school that day). Good thing my father was stopped because it turns out a huge amount of narcotics were moved through our property and my father would probably have ended up dead. On another island, I can clearly remember driving home and the power being out on most of the island…except at the airport. The runway was lit up bright as can be. My father drove by much quicker than normal and we went straight to our house. No questions. Just let it be.

  2. DirtyMonday

    There’s a good bio on him in the “Gangsters: America’s most Evil”

    My favorite part was the one resident who refused to leave the island and actually fucked with this dude. Essentially fucking with the Medellin Cartel. Of course the guy was there to swim with tiger sharks so ‘Crazy Carlos’ wasn’t going to scare him away.

  3. ibarabi

    No need to accept pay for amnesty, they just froze his accounts

  4. SequesterMe

    They should have given him amnesty as long as he never participated in illegal activities again.

    I mean, US president Reagan did very nearly the same thing.

  5. cartoon_gun

    Pablo Escobar also had an island. I believe he also had an airstrip in the Bahamas he used. Other Colombian cartel leaders did too.

  6. johnnyhammer

    It never ceases to amaze me what earning power that white dust creates for the wrong people.

  7. Therealmohb

    Blow: a great movie.

    But an even better book. The book goes into pretty good detail about Carlos.

  8. _Born_To_Be_Mild_

    You’re rich, but not pay-off-the-debts-of-an-entire-country rich.

  9. jdubs703

    “they enlisted two American girls to take a paid vacation to Antigua, receive cocaine, and carry it back with them to the US in their suitcases. Repeating this process several times, they soon had enough money for an airplane.

    Using a small stolen plane and a professional pilot, they began to fly cocaine into the United States via the Bahamas”

    So they saved enough for a stolen plane?

  10. fracking_u

    I thought that was Pablo Escobar who tried paying off Columbia’s debt.

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