KING Of Cocaine, Escobar’s Mansion Lies In Ruins, 25 Years After
By Tariq Tahir
THESE pictures reveal the crumbling mansion of the wealthiest criminal in history – Pablo Escobar – that is now being used as a paintball venue.
The King of Cocaine bought his 20-acre estate in Guatapé, Colombia, after his daughter Manuela was born in 1984, and he named it in her honour.
It was built with double-layered walls for hiding cash and cocaine, and boasted a private disco, a pool, a guesthouse, a seaplane dock, tennis courts, and a football field used to land helicopters.
But a vigilante group called Los Pepes, funded by Escobar’s Cali Cartel rivals, destroyed La Manuela in 1993 by detonating 200kg of TNT in a bathroom.
Escobar himself was tipped off and had evacuated, but was gunned down in his hometown of Medellin later that year aged 44.
Now the bombed-out mansion is being used for paintball, with tourists paying 170,000 Colombian pesos (£43) for a few rounds of cops versus narcos.
A bar has even been set up on site to keep guests fed and watered.
Londoner Mark Mooney, 37, toured the estate during a recent visit.
‘It was far too hot for paintballing that day, but we did see a group who had just finished,’ he said.
‘I think it’s quite ironic that it’s being used for that – I imagine it’s pretty similar to what was going on when Pablo had to flee.’
Photos show the crime boss’s pool has turned green, while the buildings are being reclaimed by nature.
Bullet marks and rubble from the bombing are still visible at the site, and walls throughout are covered with graffiti and riddled with holes.
Carlos Ramirez, another recent visitor, who grew up in Colombia during the Escobar era said the holes had been carved by treasure hunters seeking Pablo’s fortune.
Local legend has it that none of them ever found money there.
‘A lot of people would go in and start drilling through the walls to see if they would find money,’ said Mr Ramirez.
‘Every time you look at a property like that, there’s holes in the walls everywhere.’
But even now you can still see how magnificent the mansion once was.
Mr Mooney said: ‘The property was very grand. You arrive by boat and see the nightclub and bar area that he used for parties.
‘As you walk towards the house it is impressive, with big rooms, verandas and balconies.
‘You walk around to the back and the pool is still there with the beach house and BBQ area. I can’t even begin to imagine the sorts of parties that went on there!
‘And it’s a very enviable place to live. Whilst no one lives in this property now, the shoreline of the man-made lake is littered with houses for the rich and famous from Colombia.’
Mr Ramirez said a dispute over the property was ongoing between the government and Pablo’s former caretaker.
‘Currently it’s owned by the state,’ he said.
‘But the butler from that time is fighting for it and says he has worked there for 20 years, so he claims he has rights to it.’
At the height of his power, Escobar’s cartel supplied an estimated 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States, earning him $21.9bn (£16.59bn) a year.
Such was his wealth that – according to his brother and accountant, Roberto Escobar – they were spending $2,500 (£1,900) on rubber bands every month just to hold the cash.
Pablo is also reputed to have once burned $2m (£1.5m) in cash to keep his daughter warm when he was on the run with his family.
After her father’s death, Manuela Escobar would flee Colombia with her mother in 1995, eventually settling in Argentina.
She maintains a low profile to this day, living under a new name.