The Most Outlandish Things Drug Lords Have Done With Their Money

What would you do if you went from the lowest rung of poverty to unbelievable heights of wealth in the blink of an eye? For some of the world’s most fearsome drug lords, the question was answered with lavish and bizarre shopping sprees. In the past several decades, drug lords from Pablo Escobar to El Chapo have proudly displayed their unique possessions. 

While incredibly dangerous, not to mention illegal, the drug trade paid big. From exotic animals to an entire country, drug lord possessions definitely displayed the wealth and prowess of their owners. 

Here are some of the most outlandish and ostentatious things narcos bought before they got caught. 

  • Manuel Noriega Used His Drug Fortune To Take Over A Country
    Photo: United States Air Force / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Before he was indicted on drug trafficking charges in 1988, Manuel Noriega was a lot of things: Dictator, CIA collaborator, and most of all, drug runner. 

    With the power and proceeds he gained from his business relationships channeling guns to US-backed insurgents, Noriega took over the country of Panama.

  • Pablo Escobar Assembled His Own Zoo
    Photo: Colombian National Police / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    During his time as a successful drug lord, Pablo Escobar used a portion of his funds to surround himself with exotic animals of all stripes, colors, and sizes. Among the menagerie he collected was a small herd of hippos. When Escobar died in a gun battle in 1993, his menagerie was confiscated and dispersed to zoos across the world, except for the hippos.

    They were left behind to make their own way. As it turns out, Colombia is a perfect climate for hippos and they’ve been breeding regularly. At least 12 have escaped and continue to thrive in the Colombian wilds.

  • Amado Carrillo Fuentes - The Lord Of The Skies - Owned 22 Private Jets
    Video: YouTube

    Amado Carrillo Fuentes gained the nickname "El Senor de Los Cielos," or The Lord of The Skies, because he owned so many planes. The Mexican drug cartel used his fleet to transport drugs around the world.

    Before his death in 1997, he was considered one of the wealthiest criminals in the world, with his net-worth valued at $25 billion. 

  • The Current Highest-Ranking Member Of The Sinaloa Cartel Owns A Kindergarten
    Video: YouTube

    When headlines across the world rang with the brutal stories of Pablo Escobar and "El Chapo," there was one name who managed to escape prosecution, Ismael 'El Mayo' Zambada. Zambada has been on the DEA's radar since 1978, though he has not once been arrested. 

    Zambada has assured his freedom by spending heavily to bribe politicians and the police, but he's also managed to stay free by investing in a series of unsuspecting money laundering fronts. He owns a dairy, a kindergarten, and an aquatic park among a diverse variety of fronts.

  • The Famed 'Cocaine Godmother' Loved To Collect Artifacts From Powerful Women

    The Famed 'Cocaine Godmother' Loved To Collect Artifacts From Powerful Women
    Photo: Metro Dade Police Department / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Griselda Blanco was one of Miami’s leading cocaine dealers in the late 1970s. Known as "The Black Widow," she was credited with more than 200 murders before she was assassinated in a motorcycle drive-by in 2012 (ironically, she was taken down by a technique she helped pioneer).

    Before she was dethroned, however, Blanco spent huge sums of money on valuables from prominent women. According to The New York Post, some of Blanco’s most prized possessions were “Eva Peron’s pearls and a tea set once used by the Queen of England.”

  • The Leader Of 'The Resistance' Cartel Made His Gold-Plated Machine Gun Famous

    In 2012, Ramiro Pozos González, known as "El Molca," was arrested on charges of drug trafficking and murder. One of the most valuable seizures from his house by police was a gold-plated AK-47, complete with his initials monogrammed on the handle.

    González was far from the only drug lord to amass ostentatious and flashy weapons. El Museo de Enervantes in Mexico City hosted an exhibit on the array of gold-plated and bejeweled weaponry confiscated from powerful cartels during the narcotics war.