Former drug lord Carlos Enrique Lehder Rivas has been transferred to Germany following his release from a Florida prison on Monday. He arrived in Berlin on Tuesday, after being escorted by two US officials on a standard passenger flight from New York to Frankfurt, where he was handed over to German authorities. Lehder, now 70 years old, holds both Colombian and German citizenship as his father was a German immigrant to Colombia. German immigration authorities issued him with a temporary passport earlier this month in order for him to travel, however, it seems the former Cocaine Cowboy has never been to Germany and has no relatives in the country.
Lehder’s attorney, Oscar Arroyave, told the Associated Press his client has no interest in returning to Colombia following his prison sentence in the US.
Colombian authorities had demanded for years that Lehder be returned after serving his sentence in the US. However, his relatives said they were concerned he would be thrown back in jail.
Lehder was born on September 7, 1949 and during his childhood lived in Armenia, Colombia until his parents divorced when he was 15, after which he emigrated with his mother to New York. His criminal career started with selling stolen cars and marijuana, as well as smuggling stolen cars across the border to Canada. Whilst serving a prison sentence for car theft in Connecticut, he considered taking advantage of the growing cocaine market in the US, and enlisted fellow inmate and former marijuana dealer George Jung as a partner. Jung allegedly said that Lehder kept countless files and constantly took notes. Lehder’s ultimate goal was to revolutionize the cocaine trade by transporting the drug to the United States, using small aircraft. Upon their release, this came to fruition and Lehder acquired a personal Bahamian island as an all-purpose headquarters for his operations, Norman’s Cay.
In 1982, however, authorities in the Bahamas, reportedly pressured by the United States, began cracking down on the drug smuggling in Norman’s Cay, and Lehder was forced to end his operations there.
Lehder apparently fell from favor with drug lord Pablo Escobar in the middle of the 1980s, and on February 4, 1987, acting on a tip that some people believed came from Escobar himself, Colombian police raided a ranch near the town of Guarne in Antioquia and captured Lehder. Within hours he was sent to the United States. They had been working on his arrest since 1979.
Lehder went on trial in October 1987 in Florida, on charges of conspiracy and running a criminal enterprise as well as other charges related to the importation and sale of narcotics. The trial went on until May 1988. He was convicted on all counts.
Lehder spent more than 30 years behind bars after he was extradited to the US in 1987 and sentenced to 130 years in prison. However, his sentence was reduced to 55 years after he cooperated with an investigation into Panamanian military leader and politician Manuel Noriega. He was then placed in a witness protection minimum-security prison in Florida.
He was an integral player in the forming of the Medallin Cartel. He was also a founding member of a Colombian paramilitary group, Muerte a Secuestradores, or in English, Death to Kidnappers. His motivation for this came after an attempt to kidnap him for ransom was made by the guerrilla movement M-19. Lehder also founded a neo-Nazi political party, the National Latin Movement, whose main function, police said, seemed to focus on forcing Colombia to rescind its extradition agreement with the US. Lehder is renowned for his admiration of Adolf Hitler and John Lennon.
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