Pablo Escobar's crime partner freed in US, goes to Berlin
MIAMI (AP) - Pablo Escobar's criminal partner and one of Colombia's pioneering “cocaine cowboys” were released after a long prison sentence in the United States and deported to Germany, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Carlos Lehder flew to his new home in Berlin on Monday after he was released from a U.S. prison in Florida, where he was held under the government's witness protection program, lawyer Oscar Arroyave told The Associated Press.
With Escobar, the 70-year-old Lehder was one of the leading representatives of the Medellin cartel, which dominated the global cocaine trade in the 1980s. At the same time, as an admirer of John Lennon and Adolf Hitler, Lehder is portrayed in the Netflix series "Narcos" as a wild, female criminal who has set up a transit point for cocaine-laden aircraft on a private island, Norman's Cay, a few hundred miles before Florida coast in the Bahamas.
His extradition to the United States in 1987 ushered in a period of intense American attacks on Colombian narkos, who succeeded in bribing and threatening their way out of law enforcement in the South American country on the nadir of the bloody antitrust wars.
His partner, Escobar, who became a rival, never saw a US prison cell in Medellin in 1993 that died in a police shootout. Since then, thousands of Colombian drug traffickers have gone to US prisons, many of whom spent far less time teaching.
Arroyave, who did not represent Lehder at the time of his arrest, said the federal sentencing guidelines make it very costly for defendants who bring charges and lose in a lawsuit.
"No one who is accused of drug trafficking will be brought to justice in the US," said Arroyave, who plans to travel to Berlin soon after such a long ordeal to share a festive beer with his client. "If he had pleaded guilty, he would have been home 15 years ago. In today's world there are drug dealers who are much bigger than Carlos Lehder who pay five to six years."
Lehder was originally sentenced to 135 years plus life, but after agreeing to testify against former Panamanian strong general Manuel Noriega, his sentence was reduced to 55 years.
Lehder acquired German citizenship through his father, an immigrant to Colombia. Arroyave said Lehder had no interest in returning to Colombia and the German authorities had helped him settle in his adopted home.
"He was always crazy, but he was also very smart," said Richard Gregorie, a former US lawyer in Miami who indicted Noriega and several other Colombian drug dealers near Lehder. "He is old, but I wonder how much craziness he still has."
Joshua Goodman on Twitter: @APjoshgoodman
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