Drug barons: 10 of the richest drug lords of all time

Drug barons: 10 of the richest drug lords of all time
El Chapo (left) and Pablo Escobar (Getty Images)

Being a drug lord is no easy job and it needs the person to take a lot of risks and break a lot of rules. Some people choose that life as with all the hardships comes power and a lot of money until the cartel leaders are caught and put into prison. But before the prison bars, comes the massive wealth they manage to hoard up. 

Here are some 11 drug lords who made so much money by trading in illegal drugs

#11 Freeway' Rick Ross

Also known as 'freeway', Rick Ross used to be an American drug trafficker who was believed to be running a huge drug empire in LA during the 1980s. Between the years 1982 and 1989, he was able to smuggle in many metric tons of cocaine.

He reached areas such as North Carolina, Indiana, and Oklahoma. During the peak of his drug trafficking, he could earn up to $3 million in just a day and his highest net worth was over $600 million.

#10 Khun Sa

Khun Sa was also known as the Opium King and was a Chinese warlord. In the 70s and 80s he was responsible for controlling over 90% of the total heroin produce from New York to Myanmar Laos and Thailand. He even had his own small army with over 18,000 troops.


He had one of the largest heroin empires which was worth a total of 5 billion dollars. In the year 1988, while giving an interview, he offered to sell his business to the Australian government at 400 million dollars and once he was rejected, he approached the US government. He eventually turned himself into the Burmese officials.

#9 Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera

Joaquin was a Mexican drug lord and was the head of the Sinoloa cartel. Better known as 'El Chapo' he was responsible for running one of the most successful drug organizations ever. He founded the Sinoloa cartel in the year 1989 and built it to be a drug empire.

He was known for his connections, power, and influence and is well known for being able to escape maximum security prisons in his own country. At one point, El Chapo was believed to be one of the world's richest people with his net worth at 1 billion. At his peak, El Chapo had over $14 billion and was still making even when jailed. Now, you can see his wealth being splurged on his son’s social media accounts.


#8 José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha

Better known as El Mexicano, this Colombian drug lord was a proud believer in the Mexican culture. He was also one of the many founders of the Medellin Cartel and is known to have discovered and built new routes from Mexico to the United States in order to traffic the maximum amount of drugs.

He was also responsible for setting up and establishing many labs all over the Gacha jungles and had employed many workers to manufacture cocaine. While he was still in control and power, his net worth was said to be over 5 billion dollars. He was eventually caught by the Colombian police but blew himself up with a grenade.

#7 Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez, Fabio Ochoa Vásquez and Juan David Ochoa Vásquez

The Ochoa brothers were three ferocious brothers who were also involved in the formation of the infamous Medellin Cartel and were responsible for about 30% of the cartel's cocaine business and trade. They were the owners of a large fleet of planes and had about 55 aircrafts which flew in the cocaine.

In order to avoid extradition to the USA, the brothers came up with a smart and elaborate plan. The brothers decided to surrender to the Colombian government and were made to serve a minimum period of around 5 years each and were eventually released. Jorge is still alive while Juan died and Fabio was extradited.


#6 Griselda Blanco

Griselda is the only woman who made the list due to her ruthless and merciless attitude. She was one of the most dangerous drug dealers and was also known as the 'Cocaine God Mother'. When it came to competition, she is known to have ordered the murder of over 200 rivals and anyone else who dared to stand in her way.

Blanco's assets are said to be an estimated 2 billion dollars. During the 1980s, she was actively involved and present during the Miami Drug War. In 1985, she was finally arrested but managed to control and run her business from inside the jail. She passed away in the year 2012 when she was shot in the head.

#5 Carlos Enrique Lehder Rivas

Carlos Enrique was a drug lord from Colombia who had control over some parts of the United States and some parts of Colombia. Carlos purchased an entire island to help run his operations. He bought every single property in the Bahamian Island and made it his home base.

The Island was carefully guarded by bodyguards, ferocious dogs, airstrips, as well as radar. His assets were worth an estimated 2.7 billion dollars. He was a big fan of Adolf Hitler and a self-proclaimed Nazi. After he was arrested, he was sentenced to life but in the year 1992, the sentence was reduced because of his testament against Manuel Noriega.


#4 Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela & Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela

The Rodriguez brothers were known as the 'Gentlemen of Cali' and were the founders of the Cali Cartel. They had a very different approach to dealing with their problems and unlike other cartels, they bribed their way to success rather than resort to violence.

When the cartel's income and business were peaking, they had control over more than 90% of the world's cocaine and had a net worth of 3 billion dollars. Both the brothers were arrested from their homes where one was found in a bathroom cabinet and one was in a secret closet. The brothers were extradited to the United States.

#3 Dawood Ibrahim

Ibrahim is the founder of the Indian organized crime organization known as the 'D Company' and he is the leader and a terrorist. It is believed that he was responsible for the 1993 Mumbai Blasts and since then he has been dubbed as a global terrorist.

He is also close to the terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda, and was in communication with none other than Osama Bin Laden himself when he was alive. In the year 2011, he was listed as the world's third wealthiest and richest drug dealer with an estimated worth of 6.7 billion dollars.


#2 Amado Carrillo Fuentes

One of the most powerful Mexican drug leaders of all times, Carrillo Fuentes was known to be ruthless and violent. In order to maintain discipline and establish his power, he would decapitate his rivals, and mutilate their corpses. These bodies would then be dumped in public places for all those to see and be aware of the consequences of crossing the mafia.

This mafia is believed to have assets worth more than 25 billion dollars and a fleet of around 22 aircrafts which were used to traffic the drugs. Carrillo underwent many plastic surgeries to avoid the police and escape. However, he died on an operating table at the young age of 40. 

#1 Pablo Escobar

Escobar was the leader of the Medellin Cartel and had control of over 80% of the total cocaine imports into the United States. He is one of the most feared cartel leaders of all time and has killed over a thousand. He was gunned down in the year 1993. It is believed that he had assets worth 30 billion dollars and an estimated 20 billion which were buried across Columbia.


He was able to smuggle around 70-80 tons of coke every single month. Pablo was also known as the 'Robinhood of Medellin' and did a lot for his community by building schools, hospitals, and churches. His fame even earned him the TV show Narcos, in which the first two seasons are dedicated to his life and exploits. 

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 Drug barons: 10 of the richest drug lords of all time